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What is a Biofeedback Game?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A biofeedback game is a game which is controlled through input from biofeedback devices. The patient controls the game with his or her body, with the game responding to things like changes in heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, and skin temperature. Such games are used in therapeutic settings for a wide variety of purposes, and they can also be recreational in nature.

In a biofeedback game, people navigate the game by changing something about their body. This change may be conscious or unconscious. For example, changes in breath rate can be manipulated by a player, while pulse is dependent on physiological shifts in the body which the player cannot control. Such games are often designed along a reward model, with the game rewarding the player when she or he achieves a desired change.

For example, a game which is designed to help people relax and promote stress management would reward players for reductions in blood pressure, sweating, and heart rate. Someone might be able to pass through doors, build something, or engage in other activities by lowering stress, while the game would present obstacles when the player was obviously in a stressed state. Biofeedback games can be used in psychotherapy, to help patients work through stressful situations, and they may also be used in medical imaging studies of the brain, with the patient controlling the game while the brain is scanned to gather information about brain activity.

To play a biofeedback game, a player needs to be connected to devices which will provide input for the game. Players may wear gloves, heart rate monitors, and so forth. The game may be presented on a screen or inside a visor, with some biofeedback games being geared towards a virtual reality mode of play, in which the player feels immersed inside the game. Many such games take on a storytelling or narrative form, with the player working through a series of scenes or puzzles with the game.

Biofeedback game designers work in many areas of the world. Some work with members of the medical or psychotherapeutic profession to develop games which can be used in therapy, while others work independently, developing games designed primarily for fun. Some games take advantage of very advanced technology, which is improving all the time, allowing games to become steady more complex and involved. People who are interested in playing a biofeedback game may be able to access one through a gaming center in their community, or through a therapy provider who uses such games in treatment.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By candyquilt — On May 31, 2014

I play a biofeedback game ten minutes a day to improve my well being. I have a very stressful job and the game helps me manage the effects of that stress.

By ZipLine — On May 30, 2014

@donasmrs-- I played a biofeedback game only once and I didn't particularly find it helpful. It might just have been the game I played and the game wasn't necessarily for therapy purposes. But it did aim to teach the gamer how to battle stress.

The game I played was like a normal game, except that I had a biofeedback sensor attached to keep track of my stress levels. So it used my pulse rate and breathing rate to see how scared or stressed I was during the game. When my stress levels went up, the game became more difficult. There were more distractions and more problems along the way. So the game encourages the gamer to calm down so that it will become easier to win.

The game didn't work for me because when things got harder when I was stressed, I got even more stressed. So things quickly got out of hand and I couldn't play anymore.

By donasmrs — On May 30, 2014

Do biofeedback games really have any benefit?

I'm sure that it has benefit while the individual is playing the game. But can this individual, reproduce the same results when faced with stressful situations in real life?

It might be relatively easy to slow down breathing knowing that it's a game. But when a real-life issue occurs, I think it's difficult to apply relaxation techniques.

Has anyone here used a biofeedback game before? Do you think it was helpful?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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