The Immersion Headset Will Teach You How Not To Rage At Video Games

As gamers, we're no stranger to frustration. Whether an incompetent teammate in League of Legends or a particularly brutal segment of Ninja Gaiden, some games can be downright infuriating. The problem is that some of us have no idea how to manage that stress. They'll say things they don't really mean. They'll yell, they'll hit things, and they'll throw things. In the worst case scenario, this can lead to damaged/broken hardware or equipment, or even destroy friendships.

Basically, it can completely ruin your day.

One man thinks he might have a solution (albeit one that might lead to a slew of broken controllers itself). He calls it Immersion. The current prototype makes use of a modded Xbox controller hooked up to a biometrics headset. This headset uses an optical pulse sensor to record the user's heart rate as they play, keeping track of color changes in the user's ear tissue to approximate their pulse. 

Strange, right? 

The whole project is the brainchild of designer Samuel Matson, who in the past has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and designed for Samsung, IBM, and Nike. He's received multiple awards for his work, and boasts a portfolio that's impressive even without Immersion. In short, he's kind of a big deal. 

In order to test his prototype, Matson developed a simple first-person-shooter using the Unity Game Engine. This shooter is designed to be used in tandem with Immersion; the difficulty increases or decreases based on the user's heart rate and stress levels. When the player is calm, enemies are weaker and less numerous. As the user's pulse climbs and they begin to stress out, enemies will become exponentially faster, better, stronger, and more plentiful.

Seems kind of like it's designed to cause stress rather than help prevent it, doesn't it? From a layman's standpoint, the whole thing seems rather counterintuitive. If you're trying to prevent people from getting angry at a game, why would you intentionally enrage them? 

To explain that, I'll have to explain a little concept known as Operant Conditioning. In behavioral science, operant conditioning is a type of learning where a subject's behavior is reinforced by factors in their environment. In this case, Matson's making use of positive punishment: when the behavior in question (anger) occurs, the game ramps up the difficulty. This process continues until the player either calms down or quits. 

In essence, Immersion is designed to punish a player for getting frustrated or agitated. It's designed to make them aware of their anger, so that they might take steps to better manage it. It's effectively a tool to increase one's threshold to rage. That said, I'm not really certain how well such a tool might actually function - or how popular it'd be. 

While I can certainly see how the process could work, I also feel as though it could, in some cases, cause more harm than good. There's a good chance that anyone with serious anger issues will break their controller before they gain any real benefit from it. Still, it's a pretty awesome idea, and it could definitely be a useful tool for teaching people to deal with stress, at the very least.