Brain-Computer Interfaces and Games
Workshop at ACE (Advances in Computer Entertainment) 2007


Advances in cognitive neuroscience and brain imaging technologies provide us with the increasing ability to interface directly with activity in the brain. Researchers have begun to use these technologies to build brain-computer interfaces. In these interfaces, humans intentionally manipulate their brain activity in order to directly control a computer or physical prostheses. The ability to communicate and control devices with thought alone has especially high impact for individuals with reduced capabilities for muscular response. In fact, applications for patients with severe motor disabilities have been the driving force of most brain-computer interface research.

Although removing the need for motor movements in computer interfaces is challenging and rewarding, we believe that the full potential of brain sensing technologies as an input mechanism lies in the extremely rich information it could provide about the state of the user. Having access to this state information is valuable to human-computer interaction (HCI) researchers and opens up at least three distinct areas of research:

  • direct control by thought, that is, inducing thoughts to manipulate brain activity that can be mapped onto game interaction commands(e.g., move cursor, click buttons, control devices);
  • determining the cognitive tasks in which the user is involved in order to evaluate (game) interfaces or game environments;
  • using cognitive or affective state of the user to dynamically adapt the interface to the user (e.g., detect frustration or engagement and provide tailored feedback).
Currently there is a development from traditional videogames using keyboard, mouse or joystick to games that use all kinds of sensors and algorithms that know about speech characteristics, about facial expressions, gestures, location and identity of the gamer and even physiological processes that can be used to adapt or control the game.

The next step in game development is input obtained from the measurement of brain activity. User-controlled brain activity has been used in games that involve moving a cursor on the screen or guiding the movements of an avatar in a virtual environment by imagining these movements. Relaxation games have been designed and also games that adapt to the affective state of the user. BCI game research requires the integration of theoretical research on multimodal interaction, intention detection, affective state and visual attention monitoring, and on-line motion control, but it also requires the design of several prototypes of games. These may be games for amusement, but also (serious) games for educational, training and simulation purposes.