Takeaway: Game players are more likely to pay attention when the action occurs within arms’ reach. Are you listening, AR/VR designers?
I recently played the popular VR game, I Expect You to Die. In the game, you wake up in a tricked-out spy car, complete with lasers and cannons, and you must figure out how to drive the car out of an airplane. Of course, the car has many security measures in place to keep intruders like you from operating it, many of which try to kill you while you pursue your goal. There are several ways to avoid or deactivate the traps, and it takes some trial-and-error (dying and starting over) to arrive at a solution. It’s a great game. (Kudos to Jesse and the team at Schell Games!)
In I Expect You to Die, you sit in the front seat of a car during the entire game. Despite the “smallness” of the experience, this VR game manages to be incredibly engaging. Why? Perhaps it is due to what researchers have uncovered about the salience of actions that take place within a relatively small radius of our bodies. The best AR/VR games, especially those in head-mounted displays like the Oculus Rift, utilize what we know about the mind-body connection and exploit our natural affinity for interactions distributed around our bodies.
As discussed in previous to blogs, wholesale jerseys the position cheap nfl jerseys of our bodies helps Week drive our attention. Think about your attention in the space around you as a sort of topographical map. Your brain is designed to pay attention to certain Fantastic “high priority” in areas more so than others. Specifically, your brain has a natural affinity to pay attention to: 1) the objects within arm’s reach, 2) the direction your torso is facing while you move, and 3) the space near the palms of your hands.
Evolutionarily, these attentional hotspots make sense. First, the space within our reach contains the things we can easily manipulate and obtain….perfect for interaction in games. On the other hand, if the goal of the app is visual exploration of an environment, content close to the user will be neglected in favor of content far away.
Likewise, the direction of our torsos influences our attention, especially when we are moving. Although our heads turn freely as we scan our surroundings, it is important that we are ready to respond to things that are in our direct path while we are moving. This means that we naturally pay better attention to information in front of our torsos when we move, regardless of the direction our head is turned. As a result, the most important content should be directly in front of the user when he or she is moving, rather than off to the side.
Finally, the space near the palms of our hands also gets special treatment from our brains. This makes sense because we often need to grasp important objects quickly, or use our hands to perform vital tasks for survival. This affinity for paying attention to our “palmspace” can be used by app developers to highlight important information or draw attention toward something specific.
Prioritizing the space around our bodies can increase immersion and emotional responses in AR/VR games. Consider the popular game, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. One player sits at a table in front of a ticking bomb. Other players who cannot see the bomb try to give instructions from a manual to the player to disarm the bomb. It’s delightfully simple, and fun to play and watch. What is fascinating is the extent to which the player disarming the bomb becomes emotionally engaged in the task. There is just something about a bomb, even a virtual bomb, being on a table right in front of you and in your personal space, that commands your attention. Interestingly, the 2D version of the game is not nearly as compelling as the 3D version, (and the subject of my next blog).
By capitalizing on the way we naturally distribute our attention around our bodies, developers can maximize engagement in AR/VR applications. Design interactions with objects that are within reach and in front of their bodies, and game players will reward you with their attention.