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August 12, 2020
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My Heart on Halo

by Ben Lewis-Evans on 01/24/11 02:35:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
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I am currently using heart measurement equipment for an experiment as part of my PhD and for fun (N=1 isn't usually great Science) I thought I would bring the equipment home last weekend and see what my heart looks like when I am playing a mutliplayer game of Halo Reach (Slayer DMRs on Zealot - Blue Team).  Here is what I found:

Click to see the large image

Please click on the image to see the full graph before reading further (zoom in)

Have you looked?

Ok, good... so, now only keep going if you want to read a short analysis of what you have seen. 

First of all at the basic level the linked graph shows my inter beat interval (the time between my heart beats) during a game of Slayer DMRs on Zealot over a period of 6:16 minutes.  The X-Axis marks out some events (kills... the unfortunate betrayal of a team mate - he walked into the grenade ok?), the red [ ] shows when I was in combat, the white [ ] shows my deaths (yes... I did take quite a beating) and the smaller kind of glowing [ ] shows when I am in armor lock.  

Now, technically inter beat interval decreases as workload/arousal increases (faster heart beat = shorter time between beats). However, because it is more intuitive, I have reversed the Y-axis so that the line on the graphs goes up when I was under high workload (or highly aroused if you prefer) and go down when I am under low workload (or in a state of low arousal).

All of this was recorded using a Polar Heart Belt, my Macbook, a USB serial port, and a Java application written by a colleague of mine.  All on loan from the University of Groningen (NL).  Then it was just a matter of watching the saved film for behaviours of note (and their time), taking screenshots, and then putting it all together (with the help of a nice background from Bungie).

With that out of the way, what can we say about my heart on Halo?  Well, first of all I find combat exciting (or at least it places me under higher workload) as can be seen for nearly every combat [ ] where the line tends to go up (or stay high) compared to the out of combat sections around it.  For example:

Combat Kill Death

Here you can see that the line increases as I get into combat, running up the ramp towards my Red foe, and then drops off a little before increasing again as I get into battle proper.  Then it drops down briefly as I bring death to the Red, only to jump back up when his buddy comes along to deal with me ("argh! he has a sword!").  Interestingly you can tell which combats I was in with one opponent (and made a kill) because of this kill dip.  Compared to combats where I died/was in combat with multiple opponents/an ally made the kill during which the graph tends to stay at a relatively constant level of workload/arousal or increases until I die/the combat ends.

Once I am dead the line drops. These death drops can be seen particularly well in this later section of the graph:

Death Drops

This drop indicates that when I am dead that I am understandably not under much workload. With an alternate interpretation being that I find death kind of relaxing (breathe out, take a break), which is probably why I do it so often...

Another nice effect in the above section of the graph is a similar drop which occurs when I enter armor lock (the smaller AL annotated [ ] on the graph).  Here again I am removed from the game, and therefore my workload drops away.  This happens basically every time I enter armor lock, whereas there are some instances of death where the graph remains stable, or even increases when I die - Like here for example:

Simultaneous kill

In this case the increase can perhaps be explained by the fact that the death shown above was a simultaneous one with my opponent after a double melee.  I usually find these quite amusing, and this could explain why the graph actually increases when I die in this case. With the drop off only occurring later when I respawn. 

So what does this mean for Halo mutliplayer in general?  Well, I think generally speaking it is positive.  I appear to find the periods of combat engaging, and generally my deaths are not overly frustrating (otherwise there probably wouldn't be as big a drops, or perhaps there would even be increases - which does occur a couple of times where I admit I was annoyed at my inability to land a headshot).  In other words, Halo is delivering its 30 seconds of fun effectively to my heart.

Is this an important finding?  Well probably not, N=1 doesn't tend to make a great scientific study as I have already said (and I didn't control for respiration). But was it fun to see?  It sure was!

Oh, and finally apparently I also find riding in lifts is quite fun:

Going up


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