Monday, October 8, 2007

They know what you're thinking right now... (j/k)

I’m taking a quick break today from my casual gaming bit because I found something on Game Daily that I thought was really cool. EmSense, a company started by a couple of MIT grads, has developed a way to use empirical data to read people’s emotional responses to games. What they have is a simple headset (the lack of large quantities of wires and gels was a major breakthrough) which monitors everything from eye movements, heart rate, and brainwaves, to how players furrow their eyebrows, blush, and sweat.

Game developers are always looking to find ways to get people more engaged in their games. This headset is capable of giving a continuous stream of data that show what is normal for a game, and what is a better than average response, as well as which parts of a game are more engaging than others. This allows developers to better determine where the climax of a level should be, and how to lead up to it. It also allows them to see what techniques are more successful at bringing about desired responses, allowing them to make better games that people are more engaged in, and are more interested in playing.

While this technology has been used on television commercials, it has not yet been tested on in-game advertisements. This is largely because of the lack of money that companies put into advertising in games as opposed to on television as of now. However, they believe that the same techniques could be used to gain some very interesting information. Because they are able to see how engaged they are in a game at any given point in time, and because they can see whether or not people even looked at the ad, they would be able to very accurately determine what ads are effective and at what points in the game.

This new technology will likely change a lot of things about how games are developed. More importantly for my purposes, it will likely change the way in-game advertisements are thought of. If the level of engagement that people have with in-game ads can be directly monitored and rated using the kind of empirical data not even available before, then maybe we will be seeing not only more ads, but ads that are much more effective in catching gamers’ attention.

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