Exploring Spatial Experiences of Children and Young Adolescents
While Playing the Dual Flow-based Fitness Game “Plunder Planet”
Anna Lisa Martin-Niedecken
Subject Area Game Design, Department of Design, Zurich University of the Arts, Zurich, Switzerland
Keywords: Exergame Fitness Training, Dual Flow, Spatial Experience, Exergame Spaces, Children.
Abstract: With the trend towards movement-based exergames and the gamification of sport, new body-centered
controller technologies have moved into the living rooms and the gyms. The highly complex, multi-modal
and multi-sensory interactions with these systems create new ways of perception and interaction, the
exploration and experience of which completely captivate the users. Based on related work we analyzed
interactions and interdependencies between these new perceptual and interactive spaces at the levels of “body
space”, “controller space” and “in-game space”. This extensive theoretical framework is then used to illustrate
possible applications of these theories, using the example of our fitness game environment “Plunder Planet”
for children and young adolescents. Subsequently, we present a user study specifically focusing on the
qualitative analysis of space-related gameplay experiences and play strategies of users playing “Plunder
Planet”. We introduce and analyze sketches drawn by children and young adolescents after playing the
psychophysiologically adaptive exergame with two different controller devices. The additional qualitative
evaluation showed positive effects of all three design categories (body, controller and in-game scenario) on
the player’s space-related gameplay experiences. Finally, we identify possible departure points for future
research-based developments of holistic, user-centered exergame settings which have maximum
attractiveness and effectiveness for the player.
Movement based games, targeted gamification of
fitness training, and fully equipped game gyms are
today more popular than ever. In incorporating the
whole body into the gameplay, and by controlling the
game through special full-body motion controllers,
these applications present not only an effective
alternative to traditional training, but also offer the
player holistic flowing, immersive experiences.
These new, multi-modal and multi-sensory
interactions offer the player unknown perceptive and
interactive spaces, which in their turn offer a point of
departure for innovative and holistic exergame
developments. In order to fully exploit this potential,
these arising exergame spaces need to be explored
and analyzed both as single dimensions as well as a
construct of mutually interdependent and influencing
dimensions on the levels of “body”, “controller” and
“in-game scenario”.
Currently, various studies provide insights into
the effects of specific body movements (e.g. Pasch et
al. 2009), controller technologies (e.g. Shafer,
Carbonara and Popova, 2014) as well as game
mechanics and other aspects of design (e.g. Cardona
et al., 2016) on the player’s gameplay experience (e.g.
flow, immersion or engagement), and propose
specific frameworks (e.g. Martin and Wiemeyer,
2012) or design guidelines (e.g. Mueller et al. 2011).
However, these approaches rather focus on single or
dual dimensions than on the combination and
interplay of all three exergame space dimensions.
Consequently, insights from these studies remain
limited although they hold important indicators for
designers of future exergame developments.
Furthermore, mainly quantitative research
methods were applied for the evaluation of exergame
spaces. Regarding the target group of children and
young adolescents in particular, qualitative methods
hold additional benefits and could provide extremely
informative insights, which might be missed with the
exclusive application of quantitative methods.
Children and young adolescents often struggle to
explain their feelings and experiences with words.
Thus, qualitative methods like drawings should be
applied more often in order to obtain a more
comprehensive evaluation.
Finally, the majority of existing exergame studies
Martin-Niedecken A.
Exploring Spatial Experiences of Children and Young Adolescents While Playing the Dual Flow-based Fitness Game â
AIJPlunder Planetâ
DOI: 10.5220/0006587702180229
In Proceedings of the International Conference on Computer-Human Interaction Research and Applications (CHIRA 2017), pages 218-229
ISBN: 978-989-758-267-7
2017 by SCITEPRESS – Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
is conducted using commercially available
exergames (e.g. Wii® Fit or Dance Central) and input
devices (e.g. Nintendo Wii® or Microsoft Kinect®),
which are neither user-centered nor research-based
designed, or may be developed based on single
theories and dimensions only. Game designers should
exploit the full potential of all dimensions in the
research-based development of exergame
environments, including the design of synchronized
virtual game scenarios and full-body-motion
controllers as well as the specification of associated
body movements. Thus, they target the most
attractive and effective gameplay experience for the
player and simultaneously allow researchers to
investigate promising aspects and effects of game-
based perception processes, usability and human
computer interaction in the fields of physical activity
and health.
In order to approach the topics mentioned above and
to bridge the existing gaps, we conducted both,
theoretical and applied research and development
work, which will be presented in this paper.
We begin the paper by giving an outline of
existing frameworks and findings from related work
and studies. We introduce space-related gameplay
experience concepts and theories, which are specified
and discussed in the context of exergaming. As a next
step, and in order to determine a theoretical design
and evaluation framework for our research and
development work, we assign the existing approaches
to the categories of “body space”, “controller space”
and “in-game space”.
Based on this theoretical foundation, we then
present our research-based designed, dual flow-based
fitness game environment “Plunder Planet” for
children and young adolescents, which was
developed in an user-centered and iterative design
process. We show how we translated and
implemented the existing interdiciplinary know-how
into the design of an attractive and effective exergame
Finally, we present relevant and inspriring
extracts from a user study, mainly focusing on the
introduction of children’s drawings as an additional
explorative method for the qualitative evaluation of
spatial and gameplay experiences of children and
young adolescets after playing “Plunder Planet” with
two different controller devices. The sketches were
analyzed following the approach of a qualitative
analysis (similar to Mayring’s (2010) qualitative
content analysis) employing the main categories of
our theoretical framework, which is established on
the dimensions of “body space”, “controller space”
and “in-game space”.
To conclude, we identify potential points of
departure for future exergame environments and
provide an outlook on promising future R&D work.
2.1 Gameplay Experiences
There are now numerous concepts that concern
themselves with the analysis of many different
dimensions of user experience in digital gameplay.
The most commonly identified are immersion, fun,
presence, involvement, engagement, and flow
(Brown and Crains, 2004; Ijsselsteijn et al., 2007;
Nakatsu, Rautberg and Vorderer, 2005; Sweetser and
Wyeth, 2005). The majority of these, however, cannot
be understood as single, independent dimensions, but
only in combination and interrelation with each other.
One generally speaks of a multi-dimensional user
experience in gameplay, as well as of so-called
gameplay experiences (Takatalo, Häkkinen and
Nyman, 2015).
In general, gameplay experiences can be
described as a kind of hallmark of the quality of a
game. If a game succeeds in eliciting particular
experiences for the player, it will leave a lasting
impression. Game experiences that are repeatedly
brought up in relation to body-centered innovation in
exergames and controller-technologies are the closely
related, and spatial-concept based experiences of
immersion and presence, as well as flow experiences.
2.1.1 Immersion and Presence
Ermi and Mäyrä (2005) identify three equal types of
Sensory immersion – refers to the multi-
sensory properties (e.g. game mechanics,
audiovisual representation, etc.) of a game.
Challenge-based immersion – refers to the
immersion in the cognitive and motoric aspect
that results from a challenge-skill balance
(flow) while playing a game.
Imaginative immersion – refers to the
immersion within the imaginary world created
through the game.
Brown and Cairns (2004) introduce a concept of
graded immersion and define three levels of
immersion that build upon each other: Engagement,
Engrossment and Total Immersion (Brown and
Crains, 2004). Whether, and if yes, how a player can
dive into the lowest immersion level – “engagement”
– depends on fundamental, individual preferences,
game control and the willingness to invest time, effort
and attention during gameplay, as well as on the
feedback from the game. If players have the feeling
that they understand the controlling mechanisms, and
like the game genre, they rapidly attain the level of
“engagement”. Conversely, any antipathy to any of
the components mentioned makes it difficult to
experience “engagement”.
Access to the next highest state of “engrossment”
depends greatly on the game structure and
construction. If this is found wanting, for example, in
the area of game tasks or audiovisual representation,
the player will not attain “engrossment”. At this level
the player is already emotionally involved in the
game, which is what spurs them to continue playing.
The highest level, which can be equated with
“presence experience”, is “total immersion”. In this
state, players forget everything around them and are
“cut off” from the real world. They find themselves
in a world in which only the game matters. Barriers
to experiencing total immersion include a lack of
empathy with the avatar or insufficient game
According to Weibel and Wissmath, the
immersion experience is directly related to flow and
presence. While presence refers to the sensation of
being physically located in the mediated world
(Weibel and Wissmath, 2011) flow refers to the
sensation of being involved in the gaming action at a
high level of enjoyment and fulfillment
(Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).
2.1.2 Flow Variations
Sweester and Wyeth (2005) take classic Flow Theory
and apply it to games. In their “GameFlow Model”,
they describe the core elements of “Enjoyment”:
Concentration, Challenge, Player Skills, Control,
Clear Goals, Feedback, Immersion and in the case of
multiplayer games, Social Interaction.
In contrast to classical computer games, movement
based games are played with the whole body. The
body movements are tracked by a motion-based
controller and mediated into the virtual game
scenario. Exergames challenge the player holistically
with regard to both coordination and to cognition.
In response to the classic flow concept, Sinclair et
al. (2007) have extended this concept to the
components of the body, calling it “Dual Flow”.
According to this concept, the optimal flow
experience during exergame play requires a balance
between the game-related challenge and player skills,
and the intensity of the required movement input and
the player’s fitness level. In the ideal exergame, the
player is never physically or mentally over- or under-
challenged. Only in this way can players attain their
individualized, perfect training/game mode.
Concepts derived primarily from game research draw
from the theoretical concepts described above and
extend them into practical application for exergames,
in the form of so-called “dynamic game balancing”
mechanisms (DGB) or “dynamic game adjustment”
mechanisms (DDA) (e.g. Altimira et al., 2016).
This makes it possible, for example, for players
with different levels of skill to play an exergame with
or against each other, still allowing each player to
have a dual flow experience (e.g. Gerling et al. 2014).
Balancing mechanisms range from different
movement inputs (easier for less-skilled players vs.
harder for better-skilled players), to the use of
different controllers (e.g. one-button for less-skilled
players vs. gesture-based devices for better-skilled
players), all the way to different credit systems (e.g.
more points for the less-skilled player vs. fewer points
for the better skilled player for completion of the
same challenges).
Other examples are directed towards the
individual dual flow experience, even though these
are transferable to multiplayer DGBs. This includes,
in particular, psychophysiological measurements of
the affective and effective state in game design (e.g.
Cardona et al., 2016; Mueller et al., 2012). The focus
is on the individual tailoring of game mechanics (e.g.
game difficulty) to the sensitivities and/or the heart
rate. In that context, sensor technologies which
measure these psychophysio-logical states come into
play in this setting, and are often directly coupled
with the game or the game engine.
Game balancing can therefore occur on several
levels in both single- and multiplayer modes: on the
“real level” in the area of the game controller and the
body movements, and on the “virtual level” via game
scenario, game mechanics and audiovisual
2.2 Exergame Spaces
A consideration of all of these exergaming theories
and concepts gives a new significance to the notions
of space and spatial perception in this highly
complex, multi-sensoric and multi-modal interaction
of the player on the various levels of an exergame
(body, controller, game scenario).
Nitsche (2008), for example, speaks, in relation to
the interaction with classical computer games, of an
interplay of five spaces:
“Rule-based space” as defined by the
mathematical rules that determine e.g. physics,
sound, AI, and game-level architecture.
“Mediated space” as defined by the
presentation, which is the space of the imagery
and the use of this image including the
cinematic form of presentation.
“Fictional space” that lives in the imagination,
in other words, the space “imagined” by
players from their comprehension of available
“Play space”, meaning space of the play, which
includes the player and the video game
“Social space” as defined by interaction with
others, meaning the game space of other
players affected (e.g. in a multiplayer game).
If this spatial model is transferred to body-centered
exergames, two crucial components are found to be
missing, especially on the level of “play space”. In
contrast to classical PC games, exergame play
incorporates the whole body in a sportive manner.
The body in turn interacts through movements, which
is made possible by special body-centered controller
2.2.1 “Body Space”
An indication of the degree of complexity created by
the extension of the game system through the use of
the body can be found in the model of the “Four
Lenses of Exertion Interaction” (Mueller et al., 2011).
Mueller et al. (2011) suggested looking at the moving
and interacting body from a four-lenses perspective.
They identified the “responding body”, the “moving
body”, the “sensing body” and the “relating body”,
working from the inside of the body to the outside:
The “responding body” describes how the body
responds to physical activity and sport, both
immediately after the exercise and after some
time has elapsed. Short-term effects of physical
activity include sweating and increased heart
rate, whereas in the long term such effects as
increased lung volume and a better trained
cardiovascular system can be the result of
physical activity. As previously described,
these effects are also used to dynamically adapt
an exergame to the individual sensitivities of
the player.
The “moving body“ describes the movement of
the body and individual body parts in
space/time relation to each other. The “moving
body” also comprises an individual’s natural
awareness of the location in space of the body
parts during a particular movement. This is
particularly important in the context of the
often complex movement inputs with special
exergame controllers.
The “sensing body” describes how the body
reacts to and experiences the world. In the area
of sport, this includes sporting equipment. At
the same time, it incorporates the external
environment (spectators etc.). If this concept is
transferred to exergames, the world to be
experienced doubles: the player experiences
both the real and the virtual world and interacts
with them through the special controller
The “relating body” deals with the player’s
own body in relation to other bodies, in
physical interactions that lead to other kinds of
interaction, such as social interaction. This
concept of body is relevant in multiplayer
exergames, for example.
Numerous game research studies have explored
further the fundamental meaning and effect of the
body as the central element of an exergame. In
general, the inclusion of holistic physical activity into
the gameplay is found to be a positive predictor for
the feeling of immersion and engagement (Pasch et
al., 2009), and to be an important variable in the
emotional experience of games (Vara et al., 2016).
Bianchi-Berthouze (2013) investigated how
body-movement can be exploited to modulate the
quality of the playing experience and identified five
classes of movement:
Task-control movements: These movements
are defined by the game controller. They are
necessary to play the game and to score points.
Task-facilitating movements: These
movements are not defined by the game
controller (the controller does not react to
Role-related movements: These movements
are typical of the role adopted by the player in
the game scenario.
Affective expression: This class of gestures
expresses the player’s affective state during
game play. They are spontaneously expressed
or acted and generally not recognized by the
current game interface. They are a window to
the player’s experience.
Expression of social behavior: Expressions of
social behavior are expressions that facilitate
and support interaction between players. They
are spontaneously expressed and are not
recognized by the controller.
The choice of movement strategy depends on
personal skills and on the motivation of the player
while playing the game. Pasch et al. (2009)
distinguished between the motivation “to achieve” (to
win the game) and “to relax” (to enjoy the game). If
the players’ motivation is “to achieve” they will
challenge themselves (“hard fun”) and optimize their
strategy to gain as many points as possible (e.g. by
using the minimum movements required). If the
players’ motivation is “to relax”, they will look for
mental relaxation (“easy fun”) and tend to recreate
movements from the actual sport.
2.2.2 “Controller Space”
Beside the body movement strategies (“playing
styles”) and the player’s motivation while playing a
game, the type of controller interface has a great
influence on the player’s gameplay experiences.
During exergame play, the intermediary
controller technology ideally assumes the role of
mediator between the “real” and the “virtual” game
worlds (Martin and Wiemeyer, 2012). However, the
decisive factor is always how well an input device
integrates itself into the body patterns of the moving
player. Kim et al. found that an embodied interface
improves user experience, energy expenditure, and
intention to repeat the experience within the
exergame (Kim et al., 2014).
The precision of movement recognition (Nijhar,
Bianchi-Berthouze and Boguslawski, 2011), as well
as the natural integration of this recognition into the
game scenario and the related movement feedback are
decisive indicators for the “incorporation” of the
game controller, and for the immersion into the game
world (Pasch et al., 2009).
If, for example, a controller vibrates
unexpectedly, or reacts to the player’s movement
inputs only sporadically or with delays, the controller
will interrupt the flow developed up until that point,
or make it impossible for a flow to develop at all. The
controller will then not be understood as a part, or an
extension of the integral game movement apparatus.
If, on the other hand, a controller supports the
spatial orientation of the player in their immediate
sphere of movement through well-balanced design,
and in doing so enables the most natural body
movements appropriate to the game scenario, then a
symbiosis results between the controller and the
player’s body (e.g. Shafer, Carbonara and Popova,
2014). Beside the natural feeling of control, Pasch et
al. identified that a “mimicry of movements” (if the
exergame-controller provides an accurate mapping of
the player’s movements and the representation on the
screen) positively influences immersion in
movement-based interaction (Pasch et al., 2009).
As exergames stimulate physical activity, it is
extremely important that, in addition to the simplest
possible integration of the controller into the player’s
body patterns, elements are included that result in
high activity. Taking Nintendo Wii-tennis as an
example, it is immediately apparent how easily the
Wii remote control can be tricked if a player wants to
hit a backhand: a simple flick of the wrist is all that is
required to hit a virtual clean shot.
Concepts from the so-called exergame fitness
training sector try to counter this. In this field, training
equipment is often retooled into game controllers and
extended with game scenarios (e.g. the Exerbike by
Motion Fitness), but completely new exergame
fitness game environments have also been created.
This includes not only the development of new
games, but also of matching full-body motion
controllers (e.g. the Makoto Arena by MakotoNow).
2.2.3 “In-Game Space”
At the level of “in-game spaces”, design aspects in
particular direct the (spatial) perceptions and
gameplay experiences of the player and should be
embedded as convincingly as possible within the
complete system of the exergame. At the audiovisual-
, spatial-, game mechanics- and narrative levels, the
game designer therefore should create an experience
which is as multi-sensory as possible for the player.
Perceptual psychology, in particular, provides
designers with a range of spatial concepts and
principles as anchors or points of departure for their
work. These include Gestalt theory and Gestalt
principles (e.g. Wertheimer, 1985), ecological
perception theory (Gibson, 1978), and information
processing theory (e.g. Shiffrin and Schneider, 1977).
With regard to immersion, presence and flow,
various game research studies have investigated the
impact of creative elements of games on the spatial
experiences of the player. For example, in a first-
person perspective, the player virtually turns into the
game character as he/she feels like he/she is acting
directly in the virtual game world. In addition to the
first-person perspective, the consequence and
meaning of player action within the environment and
its impact on gameplay greatly add to the feeling of
immersion (McMahan, 2003). Simultaneously,
seeing the avatar from a third-person perspective
positively influences the player’s identification and
emotional attachments towards his/her virtual image
(Blinka, 2008).
Furthermore, games provide so-called narrative
spaces (Jenkins, 2004). Narrative spaces allow
players to interact with each other, other characters,
the environment, and aspects of the game. These
narrative spaces are mapped throughout an
environment, and the narrative is constructed by the
relationships between space and events Dickey,
Based upon the variety of concepts and theories
related to “body space”, “controller space” and “in
game space”, we created “Plunder Planet” (Martin-
Niedecken and Götz, 2016), a dual flow-based,
psychophysiologically adaptive fitness game
environment for children and young adolescents
(Figure 1, 2 and 3).
Below, we describe all components of the
exergame, which were developed within an iterative
and user-centered design process with a specific focus
on the previously introduced theoretical framework
of “body space”, “controller space” and “in-game
Figure 1: In-game screenshot of “Plunder Planet”.
3.1 Dual Flow-based Design
During gameplay, the player wears a Polar H7 sensor,
with which his or her heart rate is measured and
forwarded to the game engine using a specially
developed app. In addition, the in-game performance
allows inferences about the emotional state of the
“Plunder Planet” is based on adaptive game
mechanics. Depending on the psychophysiological
state of the player during a Plunder Planet” workout,
a Trainer-GUI can be used to gradually adjust the
difficulty and complexity of the game. This ensures
that the player is optimally challenged at all times,
and finds him- or herself in the dual flow-mode.
3.2 Plunder Planet: Controller
Beside the development of an adaptive game
scenario, we focused in particular on the exploratory
development of a specific Full-Body-Motion
Controller (FBMC). This was intended to further
support the dual flow and immersion experience of
the player, and also to enable cognitive and
coordination training. To achieve this, we
experimented with a variety of input variants and put
these through repeated user tests.
“Plunder Planet” can currently be played with two
controller variants (Figure 2): the specially developed
FBMC challenges the player’s cognitive and
coordinative skills, and offers haptic feedback
through the use of buttons. The gesture-based
Kinect® sensor allows more freedom of movement
and in principle allows more natural or intuitive
With regard to design, in both the development of
the FBMC and of the game concept, an effort was
made to cover all the categories mentioned in the
literature that were found to lead to positive gameplay
experiences, and especially to immersion, presence
and (dual) flow.
Figure 2: “Plunder Planet” FBMC- and Kinect-setting.
3.3 Plunder Planet: Narrative Frame
The narrative of “Plunder Planet” draws the player
into the world of a young pirate, searching for buried
treasures on an abandoned desert planet, with his or
her flying pirate ship. The decision to use this
scenario resulted from several user tests, in which we
included the target group in the design process of the
3.4 Plunder Planet: In-Game Design
As the perspective, we chose an immersive point-of-
view, which allows the player’s avatar – a flying
pirate ship – a slightly raised third-person view of a
desert planet from the air.
Figure 3: In-engine screenshot of the procedural generated
race course.
We generated additional immersive moments using
dynamic elements, such as sand blowing around the
ship when it touches the ground, a change of direction
of the ship’s flag waving when the wind changes, ruts
leading towards a bright horizon, as well as a
procedural generated race course (Figure 3). These
visual elements and moments are intensified by the
strategic use of sound.
3.5 Plunder Planet: Body Movements
We also took care to ensure that the input movements
fit each scenario presented (so that they feel as natural
as possible), both with the use of the FBMC and the
Kinect®, and that these movements are comparable
despite the differences in the controls of the two
The FBMC is controlled by pushing six buttons in
the direct vicinity of the player’s body and/or exercise
space. The buttons are located at three heights (high,
middle and low) to the left and right of the player. The
player has to jump quite dynamically between the
buttons in order to press these at the right moments.
The height and distance of the buttons can be adjusted
to the size of the player. In order to avoid virtual
obstacles, the player must hit the middle and upper
buttons on the right or the left, while the two lower
buttons (one on each side) serve to activate force
fields to protect the player from giant sandworms.
The Kinect® sensor is also steered through six
movements on three levels. To avoid obstacles, the
player must either jump or duck to the left or the right
as the situation requires. The force fields are activated
by extending the left or the right arm to the front.
In order to validate the adaptive exergame design of
“Plunder Planet”, we conducted a feasibility study
(Martin-Niedecken and Götz, 2016). So far, we have
only reported preliminary, quantitative results (see
section 4.2). Based on these findings and our
theoretical framework, we collected further
qualitative data in the form of drawings within the
same setting, which has not been evaluated and
interpreted yet.
Since our R&D work targets children and young
adolescents, we hypothesized that these sketches
would provide us with additional insights into the
spatial effects and gameplay experiences of “Plunder
Planet” on players, and thus give us potential points
of departure for future exergame developments.
4.1 Participants and Procedure
We recruited 16 children and young adolescents (13
males and 3 females) with and without experience
with playing games (8 GX and 8 nGX), and with or
without athletic or sport experience (8 A and 8 nA).
The age of the participants ranged from 10 to 14 years
(M = 12.1 years; SD = 1.29). Participants were
divided into four equal groups (GX/A; nGX/A;
GX/nA; nGX/nA). To balance sequence effects, eight
participants started the exergame session with the
FBMC, while eight participants started using the
Kinect® sensor. Each exergame setup was played
twice, every session took 10 minutes.
Before starting the sessions, participants were
briefly introduced to “Plunder Planet” and asked
questions about their personal preferences in gaming
and sports. After two completed runs with one
controller, participants were asked to fill in two
questionnaires; the “KidsGEQ” (Poels, Ijsselsteijn
and de Kort 2008) for their gameplay experiences,
and the “SPES” (Hartmann et al., 2015), concerning
their spatial presence experience. Additionally,
participants were asked to answer questions about
dual flow, enjoyment and motivation.
4.2 Preliminary Quantitative Results
So far, the feasibility study (Martin-Niedecken and
Götz, 2016) has helped us to quantitatively examine
and confirm the design of Plunder Planet. We
compared the effects of both controller variants on the
extent of gameplay experiences and the spatial
presence experience, which, as can be seen from the
literature, can both influence (dual) flow.
In summary, we found that participants with
former game experience (GX/A and GX/nA)
generally felt more spatially present in the game
while playing “Plunder Planet”. If they had additional
athletic experience (GX/A and nGX/A), they also
reported a slightly better feeling of spatial presence
when playing with the Kinect®. Participants with
former game experience (GX/A and GX/nA) tended
to rank most items of the KidsGEQ better than
participants without previous game experience. All
subjects reported better feelings of immersion and
competence playing with the FBMC. Flow was
ranked slightly better with the Kinect®. All
participants who experienced a great feeling of flow
and immersion also reported a greater feeling of
spatial presence. A narrow majority of subjects
experienced a better dual flow and enjoyment with
the FBMC while motivation was higher playing with
the Kinect.
Generally, all components of “Plunder Planet”
(the virtual adaptive game scenario, both controller
versions and the related body movements) were
valued very positively.
4.3 Qualitative Data Collection
In addition to the questionnaires on the player’s game
and spatial presence experience, we asked
participants to sketch their most memorable
perspectives from the “Plunder Planet” gameplay
with the FBMC and with the Kinect®. All test
subjects played both controller versions, and created
a simple illustration for each experience immediately
after each game session and before filling in the
The approach of using children’s drawings for
qualitative evaluation and for gaining additional
insights into their world of feelings has been used
successfully in various social research studies (e.g.
Scheid, 2013). Drawings enable children to express
more than they could say with words.
4.4 Qualitative Results
The sketches were analyzed following the approach
of a qualitative analysis (similar to Mayring’s (2010)
qualitative content analysis) according to the three
categories of our theoretical framework: “body
space”, “controller space” and “in-game space”. The
sketches were analyzed independently by two
researchers (1 male and 1 female) with the aid of the
specifically developed system of categories described
above. The individual surveys were compared and in
case of a deviation they were discussed to reach a
common consensus. We were especially interested in
the degree of immersion and spatial presence
experience as a result of the use of the two controller
variants, and how, and towards what, the players
oriented themselves and their relating moving bodies
during play.
4.4.1 Most Memorable Spatial Perspective
In total, four players in the FBMC version felt
themselves wholly absorbed by the game scenario –
that is, in the “in-game space” – (Figure 4a) while
only one player felt the same in the Kinect® version
(Figure 4b). By “wholly absorbed” we mean that the
player takes the first-person perspective and looks
through the eyes of the avatar. According to Brown
and Crains (2004), this can be described as “total
immersion”. The majority of these players had
previous gaming experience.
Figure 4a (left), 4b (right): Exemplary FBMC- and Kinect-
Seven test subjects in the FBMC version (Figure 5a),
and eight in the Kinect® version (Figure 5b) sketched
their most memorable perspectives from the real
exercise space – that is, in the “body-controller
space”. This is comparable with Brown and Crains’
“engagement level” and describes a very external
point of view on the exergame setting. The majority
of these subjects had previous gaming experience
(GX/A and GX/nA).
Figure 5a (left), 5b (right): Exemplary FBMC- and Kinect-
Five FBMC- (Figure 6a), and seven Kinect®-players
(Figure 6b) sketched their most memorable
perspectives as a mixture of in-game, body and
controller space.
Figure 6a (left), 6b (right): Exemplary FBMC- and Kinect-
Participants drew their own body or position of their
body as well as elements and sequences from inside
the game (e.g. sandworms). At the same time, they
clearly differentiated between the real or physical
space and the virtual in-game space. This experience
is equivalent to the intermediary level between
“engagement” and “total immersion”, i.e.
“engrossment”. The test subjects had all either sport
or gaming experience (GX/A, GX/nA and nGX/A).
In summary, it appears that all players felt “engaged”,
the majority even “engrossed” or “totally immersed”.
With regard to “engagement” and “engrossment” the
assessments of both controller variants were largely
balanced and positive.
These results correspond to the results from the
analysis of the quantitative data. These also showed
largely positive results for both controllers with
respect to spatial experiences. On average, test
subjects with gaming experience (GX/A and GX/nA)
judged the FBMC to be slightly better than the
Kinect®, while those with athletic experience (GX/A
and nGx/A) found the Kinect® slightly more
The only somewhat surprising result was that of
“total immersion” or “presence”. Here, many more
test subjects in the FBMC version were found to be in
the “in-game space” than in the Kinect® version. The
qualitative data would have suggested the opposite
4.4.2 Spatial Orientation Strategies:
Body, Controller & In-Game Elements
We deepened our qualitative analysis of the 32
sketches by looking at the marked location of the
body, the controller and in-game elements, in order to
make some inferences about possible orientation
strategies of individual player/sports types.
Body. Four FBMC players (Figure 7a) and five
Kinect® players (Figure 7b) sketched their own
bodies in the real exercise space.
Figure 7a (left), 7b (right): Exemplary FBMC- and Kinect-
Four test subjects in the Kinect® version sketched the
virtual image of their own body, which was only
visible during the movement tutorial at the very
beginning of the game session and in the intermediate
tutorials (Figure 8a), whereas none of the subjects in
the FBMC version considered this a memorable
orientation point. In the Kinect® version (Figure 8b)
one test subject drew a mixture of the representations
of his/her body in virtual space and his/her body in
the real exercise space. Thus, according to the
sketches, the Kinect® version tends to provide the
more body-centered experience while playing
“Plunder Planet”.
Figure 8a (left), 8b (right): Exemplary FBMC- and Kinect-
Controller. Nine participants sketched the controller
in the real exercise space in the FBMC (Figure 9a),
and six participants in the Kinect® version (Figure
9b). Consequently, the FBMC seems to provide more
spatial and bodily guidance compared to the Kinect®.
This result is confirmed by the quantitative findings.
Figure 9a (left), 9b (right): Exemplary FBMC- and Kinect-
In addition, two test subjects in the FBMC version
(Figure 10a) and three in the Kinect® version (Figure
10b) produced illustrations of not just real but also
virtual steering information.
Figure 10a (left), 10b (right): Exemplary FBMC- and
In-game Elements. Nine subjects sketched in-game
elements like obstacles and sandworms or steering
information in the FBMC version (Figure 11a), while
the majority of seven participants in the Kinect®
version drew the virtual image of their own body
which was only visible during the tutorial sequences
(Figure 11b). Thus, the FBMC seems to allow for a
better involvement of the player into the narrative
space of “Plun-der Planet”, whereas the Kinect®
version tends to facilitate the bodily focus.
Figure 11a (left), 11b (right): Exemplary FBMC- and
Generally, it is striking that the majority of test
subjects with gaming experience tended to spatially
orient themselves with elements in virtual space and
using the controller, while those with sporting
experience tended towards orienting themselves
using their own bodies and the controller. This may
be due to the subjects’ specific experiences: athletes
generally have well-developed body perception and,
depending on the type of sport, are also used to the
interaction between the body and some sporting
equipment. Classical gamers on the other hand are
more accustomed to orienting themselves to virtual
objects and to interacting with the accompanying
controller devices.
It is also interesting that despite the third-person
perspective, none of the participants sketched the
external view of the ship. This suggests that all
players who felt themselves partially or wholly
integrated into the “in-game space” identified
strongly with the avatar, and therefore apparently
assumed a first-person perspective. This thesis is
supported by the sketching of in-game obstacles and
sandworms from the first-person perspective as well
as statements of the participants regarding their
experience of being in the driver’s cab of the pirate
The additional qualitative evaluation of “Plunder
Planet” showed positive effects of all three design
parameters (“body space”, “controller space” and “in-
game space”) on the player’s space-related gameplay
experiences (especially on the three levels of
immersion). All design levels targeted specific
experiences and play strategies among the players
depending on their previous experience in gaming
and sports. Specific design elements like the
sandworms and the obstacles were very appealing to
players with previous gaming experience while
athletic players additionally strongly focused on their
body and body movements. In terms of future work,
this provides interesting departure points for specific
exergame developments for different player/sport
types. To deepen the holistic design approach it
would be revealing to evaluate the three design levels
in more detail (e.g. by experimenting with different
body movements triggering the same in-game task).
Furthermore, applying the qualitative method
within further user studies (with larger samples), in
combination with further qualitative methods (e.g.
guideline-based interviews and participatory
observation) and in closer relation to the analysis of
the quantitative data will help to fix and solidify it as
evaluation tool.
The explorative analysis of the sketches, against both
the theoretical approaches laid out in the first part of
this paper, and the scientifically based development
of “Plunder Planet”, allows additional, and
confirmatory insights into the (space-)perceptual
processes and levels in the gameplay of “Plunder
Planet”. The lessons learnt should be deepened and
developed further in future, and can contribute
significantly to the next stages of research and
Figure 12: The new FBMC-setup allows for individual
adjustments of height, distance and position of the but-tons.
Based on the results of all the partial examinations,
the three relevant areas “body space”, “controller
space” and “in-game space” should in future be
further experimented with using various, holistic
design approaches and concepts. We are particularly
interested in the application and exploration of
targeted DGB mechanisms on all three levels, and
their impact on the (space-) perceptual processes and
experiences of players.
In the meantime, our FBMC-prototype has been
successfully developed further (Figure 12) and now
offers multiple topics for further exploration in the
area of spatial interaction and experience (e.g. (i)
dynamical adjustment of the position of the buttons
depending on the player’s heart rate and in-game
performance or (ii) predetermination of body
movements the player is allowed to perform in order
to control the game, depending on the player’s skill
We thank Koboldgames GmbH for the excellent
cooperation in the realization of the “Plunder Planet”
game scenario. We also thank Roman Jurt for the
expert further development of our FBMC as well as
Prof. Ulrich Götz and René Bauer for their generous
and expert support.
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