Towards Understanding the Design of Games that Aim to Unify a Player’s Physical Body and the Virtual World

We designed Auto-Paízo games (‘Self-Play’ in Greek), where a player can share bodily control over one of their hands with an Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) system to play games against ‘it’ with their other hand.

A participant is playing “Elements”. The non-EMS hand (the player’s right hand) shows the “Water” symbol, while the EMS hand (the player’s left hand) shows the “Air” symbol caused by actuation and therefore closing the ring finger. The rules state that “Air” beats “Water”; hence the EMS hand wins.

The gap we are addressing: In many digital bodily games, the body acts as an input, with visual displays serving as output. This dynamic essentially introduces a gap between the physical body and the virtual world. Additionally, since players retain full control over their bodies in these games, we miss out on novel playful experiences, like the notion of competing against oneself. Our work bridges this divide by integrating the player’s physical body and the virtual world by using the player’s body as both input and output.


Download the component list to build your own computation EMS device:

The EMS assemblage is given to each participant. It contains (A) a microcontroller device, (B) EMS instructions, (C) a GoPro action camera with a spare battery and charger, (D) and (E) game descriptions, (F) a mobile charger, (G) mobile phone, (H) spare electrodes and lead cables, (I) EMS device, (J) and (K) electrodes for the games, and (L) hand glove for the mobile phone.

Electrode positioning
Game kit

Take home question: Through our work we pose the question: If we can assign each body part body its own agency, what kind of play experiences can we design?

Recorded Presentation

Live Presentation


CHI PLAY 2023: Best Interactivity Audience Award


Patibanda, R., Hill, C., Saini, A., Li, X., Chen, Y., Matviienko, A., Knibbe, J., van den Hoven, E., Mueller, F. Auto-Paizo Games: Towards Understanding the Design of Games that Aim to Unify a Player’s Physical Body and the Virtual World. CHI PLAY 2023. Long paper. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 7(CHI PLAY), Article 408 (November 2023), 893–918. ACM. VideoTalk video. BEST INTERACTIVITY AUDIENCE AWARD.

Patibanda, R., Li, X., Chen, Y., Saini, A., Hill, C., Hoven, E., Mueller, F. Actuating Myself: Designing Hand-Games Incorporating Electrical Muscle Stimulation. CHI PLAY 2021. Work-in-Progress. ACM. 228-235.



Rakesh Patibanda, Aryan Saini, Elise van den Hoven, and Florian ‘Floyd’ Mueller thank the Australian Research Council (Discovery Project Grant – DP190102068). We would also like to thank our participants who volunteered for the study. Florian ‘Floyd’ Mueller also thanks the Australian Research Council for DP200102612 and LP210200656.