Gaming away stress: Using biofeedback games to learn paced breathing

M. Abdullah Zafar, Beena Ahmed, Rami Al-Rihawi, Ricardo Gutierrez-Osuna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


Biofeedback games are an attractive alternative to standard techniques for learning short-term relaxation skills, especially for young adults. In this paper, we present the design, implementation and evaluation of three respiratory biofeedback games. To validate these games, we compared breathing rate across 100 male only participants (<formula><tex>$23\; \text {years old} \pm 3.2\;\text {years}$</tex></formula>) playing biofeedback and audio pacing versions of these games as well as a paced breathing app. The games were placed between repeat runs of a cognitively stressful Stroop-based task on the mobile phone and the impact of the games on breathing and cognitive performance in the task also assessed. Our results showed that 1) differences in gameplay did not impact player performance; 2) biofeedback not only led to better breath control during play but also during the subsequent cognitively stressful task; 3) biofeedback led to better attentional-cognitive performance in the subsequent task as well. Our high-powered (<formula><tex>$n=100$</tex></formula>), multi-game experiments, show that using respiratory biofeedback in video games is an effective strategy to learn paced breathing - on par with the standalone technique of paced breathing - and to self-regulate stress levels in later stressful scenarios. Furthermore, owing to its entertainment value, our relaxation solution has the potential to be more engaging and accessible than standalone paced breathing, for use over longer durations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalIEEE Transactions on Affective Computing
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Mar 2018



  • biofeedback
  • Biological control systems
  • Games
  • Medical treatment
  • paced breathing
  • Physiology
  • relaxation games
  • Stress
  • stress management
  • Task analysis
  • Training
  • wearable sensors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction

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