The following exercise will be done in class with 30-minutes time.
Mike Sheinin and Carl Gutwin. 2014. Exertion in the small: improving differentiation and expressiveness in sports games with physical controls. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1845-1854. DOI: 10.1145/2556288.2557385
Look at the following abstract and try to understand its structure. I have already outlined the main problem for you, can you find the solution and why it is important and what makes this a contribution to HCI?
Many sports video games contain elements such as running or throwing that are based on real-world physical activities, but the translation of these activities to game controllers means that the original physicality is lost. This results in games where players have limited opportunity to improve their physical skills, where there is little differentiation in people’s physical abilities, and where skills do not change over the course of a game. To explore ways of adding these elements back into sports games, we developed two games with small-scale physical controls for running and throwing — one game was a simple running race, and one was a team-based handball-style game called Jelly Polo. In two studies (three track-and-field tournaments for the running game, and a four-week league for Jelly Polo), we observed the effects of physical controls on gameplay. Our studies showed that the physical controls enabled substantial individual differences in running and passing skill, allowed people to increase their expertise over time, and led to fatigue-based changes in performance during a game. Physical controls increased the games’ challenge, complexity, and unpredictability, and dramatically improved player interest, expressiveness, and enjoyment. Our work shows that game designers should consider the idea of “exertion in the small” as a way to improve play experience in games based on physical activities.
Look at the Introduction from the same paper and try to understand its structure. I have already outlined the main problem for you, again can you find the solution and why it is important and what makes this a contribution to HCI? What parts of the introduction are confusing or misleading?
Many video games contain elements that are based on physical activities (e.g., running, throwing, jumping, or kicking), and sports games in particular are strongly based on physicality. Sports games have many complexities, and players can build up considerable amounts of expertise in them – but the nature of this expertise is usually very unlike that of the original sport. This is because games must translate a real-world physical activity to an action that can be carried out with an Xbox-style game controller, and in the translation, the physicality of the original activity is lost.
For example, one main element of many real-world games is bodily movement such as running. Running in many sports video games is translated to a rate-controlled joystick action (i.e., press the stick to move the on-screen character) or a fixed-rate keyboard action (i.e., press and hold the WASD keys to move). This changes the activity of running from a repeated large-muscle action with substantial physical demands, to small fixed movements of the fingers and hand on a controller. In addition, this translation changes a complex multi-degree-of-freedom action to a simpler rate-controlled action where velocity is a function of the system rather than a function of player effort.
A second example involves throwing skill. In the real world, passing is a precision skill that requires substantial practice, but in many sports games, passing is translated into an action that is at least partially controlled by the computer (e.g., direction and distance are automatically set or adjusted so that a pass will go to a teammate).
These kinds of translations between physical activities and controller actions are present in almost all sports games (and many other avatar-based games as well). However, this approach presents three drawbacks for sports games:
Overall, these drawbacks reduce the richness and realism of sports video games. Although some games can add other types of richness (e.g., difficulty levels for computer players, minigames such as fighting in a hockey game, or ‘manager modes’), the core play experience of a sports game is often limited by these problems.
In this paper, we investigate the idea of adding physicality back into controller-based movement in order to add expressiveness and player differentiation back into sports video games. We maintained the basic play environment, with standard controllers and settings, but added two kinds of physical control: impulse-based movement, where each physical action on the controller only moves the character a small amount (similar to taking a single step); and high-precision throwing, where control input has a detailed relationship to the direction and distance of a throw.
To test the idea of physical controls in sports video games, we developed two games and ran two studies. The first game was a track-and-field running game called Track and Field Racing (TaFR), where two players race each other in a simulated 100m, 200m, or 400m race. Players controlled the running movement by alternately pressing two keys on the keyboard, as fast as possible, with their first and second fingers. We ran three track meets with TaFR to see whether the physical controls led to individual differences and to performance changes over time. Our study clearly showed both of these effects – physical controls appeared to greatly increase the complexity and unpredictability of the game.
Our second game – called Jelly Polo – was a three-on-three top-down ball game loosely based on European Handball. Discrete movement in Jelly Polo involves repeatedly tapping the left joystick of a game controller in the desired direction; precise throwing involves pushing the right joystick in a particular direction and by a particular amount. To explore the effects of these controls on gameplay, we ran a four-week ‘Jelly Polo league’ with four persistent teams of three people. We found substantial evidence that the physical controls changed all three of the issues identified above: first, people’s basic skills in discrete running and precise throwing increased over the four weeks; second, there was considerable individual skill difference across the twelve players, and both people and teams had to adjust to accommodate these differences; and third, fatigue played a major role in the gameplay – it directly affected player speed, and led to novel team strategies and exploitation of fatigue-based mismatches.
Our work builds on existing foundations of exertion-based interfaces (e.g., [12, 14, 17]), but looks specifically at ‘exertion in the small,’ with physical actions of hands and fingers. We make four novel contributions:
Overall, our work suggests that designers of games based on physical actions (and sports games in particular), should consider ‘exertion in the small’ as an idea that can improve player experience and player satisfaction.
First, brainstorm a CHI paper idea with the group (10 minutes).
Use Carl’s four questions to guide you through the process of writing a fictional CHI paper about this research topic that you have in mind:
Use the same process as many CHI authors:
Present your introduction to the course.
Lennart Nacke's work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.