short talk: (G4C 2011) Covert and Overt Measures of Engagement Within an Educational Multimedia Environment

8th Annual Games for Change Festival,
New Yourk, NY, USA. June 2011.
Short Talk
Wednesday (June 22) — NYU Law School (40 Washington Square South), Greenberg Lounge.



Within the social sciences there is a well-established base of research that has helped to shed light on the complexity of human social interactions. Recently, in the developing arena of game design and research, there has been a shift from expert-driven experience decisions and a market research orientation to a more objective, user centric, data-driven scientific approach. While the gaming community is making more of an effort to empirically assess the quality of users’ experiences, the educational and learning sciences are adopting more game-like features to help improve engagement within digital learning environments, reduce frustration and in general assess students’ emotional states to help them persist through challenging tasks.

In addition to each field mutually benefiting from each another’s strengths, the fields are also simultaneously capitalizing on recent advances in physiological sensing devices. These devices capture data as users interact with various systems, which is used to help improve assessment of user experiences as well as enhancing user engagement.

An example of this symbiotic relationship is the use of physiological data gathered while a user is immersed in a gaming scenario; this data is used to better understand a user’s cognitive and affective states as it relates to their performance within the game. Recently, studies exploring the feasibility of such a scenario. One set up utilized the integration of a high fidelity graphic, deeply engaging, well-known video game called Guitar Hero as the stimulus with a suite of unobtrusive psychophysiological sensing devices, that captured a user’s affective states during the game. These sensing devices included the Emotiv® EPOC headset, Tobii ® Eye Tracking System, customized pressure sensors game controller (guitar) and a skin conductance sensor.

Utilizing a multimodal approach for sensing, integrating, and synchronizing the data, we investigated the different levels of engagement as detected by the EEG Emotiv® EPOC headset, the visual attention captured through unobtrusive eye tracking methods, pressure on the buttons of the guitar and arousal of the emotions captured by other sensing devices.

The goal of this paper is to present the state-of-the-art advances in the fields of educational technology, computer science, psychology and data mining used for assessing users’ affective states and explain how these advances can be used to objectively measure and enhance the user experience within an interactive multimedia environment (e.g., computer games, and intelligent tutors).


These are our slides for the short talk, any comment is more than welcome.


From the Games for Learning Day at the 8th Annual Games for Change Festival (June 20 – 22, in New York City)