Wednesday 16 November 2016

BfB Labs Champions Of The Shengha Emotionally Responsive Gaming Preview

Champions Of The Shengha will be the first game release from British tech start-up BfB Labs. They are on a mission to 'help children develop the skills to combat the stresses of life' using Mindfulness techniques. In this case it actually means controlling your emotions while playing a game in order to increase your score...

BfB Labs work in a new generation of games which use emotional response as part of gameplay. Champions Of The Shengha is a fantasy battle-card app. game suited best to ages 10-15, which requires you to remain level headed and calm while playing, in order to gain power advantages.

A small BfB Sensor (heart rate monitor) is attached to the players ear, and connects to the phone or tablet by bluetooth.  At the beginning of each round the game encourages deep breathing to control your heart rate. The calmer you are under pressure, the more power you earn.

I was a bit dubious at first, I thought it might feel a bit embarrassing or weird, and couldn't really imagine the teenagers going for it. In fact it's a simple case of sitting up straight, breathing deeply and remaining calm while you play. The game gives really effective prompts to assist you in your relaxation, which actually help, and it really does train you to be aware of your own posture and breathing, and understand how to relax. I'm now convinced.

The game itself is very playable, if not ground-breaking. A fantasy battle card game using turn-taking which is incredibly easy to understand and far more complex to master. The player chooses one of 3 tribes which give additional characteristics, then their character gains in skill and ability as play progresses. Throughout the game, players collect a selection of powerful spells, creatures, weapons and armour, each of which represent different attacking and defensive strengths. Each round takes only a few minutes to play, and logic and being able to think a couple of moves ahead will serve you well.

Here's the 3 minute You Tube promo video to take a look and hear more from the developers....

Champions Of The Shengha has been trialled at Billericay School in Essex, and results have shown that emotional control skills are not only picked up very quickly, the students have started to use them outside the game setting. When applied in real life, the breathing techniques learned in the game have also been shown to give positive results to people who suffer from anxiety and depression.

I certainly felt when playing that initially I hadn't a chance, but within minutes I was controlling my breathing with a fair degree of success! The competitive nature of gaming makes you want to achieve, even though you are trying to win a game. It's a very clever way of making you tense before asking you to relax, and showing you how to do so.

My children straddle the recommended age group of 10-15. My 6 and 8 year olds were a bit young for Champions Of The Shengha, but my 16 year old and 22 year old both will both benefit I think. Although this isn't the type of game either of them would pick as first choice, they can appreciate the techniques are helpful, although I think possibly the game challenge itself wasn't enough for them as older, more experienced gamers.

Simon Fox, Creative Director, said: "If you look at martial arts - the common theme between all the different disciplines is self-control, the ability to find that inner peace, that emotional balance, and transform it into a key strength as you prepare for combat. That, more than your physical power, is what determines your future success. I like that famous saying by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, ‘The best fighter is never angry’. There is a nice parallel here with what we’ve set out to achieve with ERG.”

BfB Labs is developing a series of follow-on emotionally-responsive games which actually sound more like my type of thing. ‘Await Rescue’, casts you as an astronaut stranded in deep space, trying to keep control of your mind and body as you risk your life to repair your ship. ‘Big Steal’ is a noir inflected crime thriller where you play the bad guy and need to keep information secret, despite increasing pressure from police investigations. I can't wait to try that one out...

‘Champions Of The Shengha’ launched via crowdfunding platform on September 27. You can find out more and support Champions Of The Shengha here...

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