New VR horror game gets scarier if your heart rate isn’t fast enough

A bit like spicy food, the effectiveness of horror titles varies from person to person. What makes me break out in a sweat may not be enough to elevate your heart rate. Fortunately (or, if you’re of a nervous disposition, perhaps, unfortunately,) the good folks at game developer Red Meat Games have come up with a neat way around this problem. It includes medical technology that would more commonly be used for helping people than scaring the bejesus out of them.

In its latest virtual reality game Bring to Light, players have the option of strapping on a heart rate monitor to personalize the game’s fear factor. Get too comfortable with the experience, and the game’s artificial intelligence will know to ramp up the terror. Because who wants a relaxing, enjoyable game experience, right?

“Back in 2013, gaming conferences were plastered with mobile game ad companies selling their ad services,” Red Meat Games CEO Keith Makse told Digital Trends. “I had the thought at the time that rather than automating the ad systems, as was proffered by every ad company, there could be a tool that could automate game design in some way.”

Red Meat’s first attempt at doing this resulted in a tool Makse calls DAISy (Distributed A.I. System), which tweaked a trivia game based on real-time user interaction. However, Makse wanted to go further than this and utilize biometric technology. “When I was brainstorming another game, I thought we should be able to use biometric feedback as user input, and we quickly thought of using a heartbeat,” he continued. “That was the easy part. We’ve probably spent about 12 months in total designing, building, and testing this system to get it to where it is today.”

Bring to Light puts players in control of the sole survivor of a subway accident, which turns out to be just the first step in a terrifying Lovecraftian horror experience. The $20 game launched on Steam earlier this month, available for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, as well as a “flat” version you can play on PC without the need for a virtual reality headset.

“While I still think it’s too early to tell if this will be picked up by any others out there, I do think that using biometric feedback will eventually become an option for games and other apps out there,” Makse said. “More biometric devices are released every day and constant improvements are being made.”

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