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The Gaming Master

Difficulty
Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Prerequisites Simple game and a computer or gaming system
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety No issues

Abstract

Oh no! Mom and Dad have only given you a half-hour to play your video game before you have to go do your homework. You need to maximize your score before your friends do. Learn to use ergonomics to your benefit! Investigate how different body postures and changes to the gaming environment can affect a person's score. By the end of this project, you can be the Gaming Master.

Objective

This project will introduce you to the concept of ergonomics. By applying simple ergonomic principles to a set task, such as playing a video game, the user will achieve higher productivity, while increasing efficiency.

Credits

Michelle Maranowski, PhD, Science Buddies

Bejeweled® is a registered trademark of PopCap Games Inc.

Cite This Page

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "The Gaming Master" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 16 Nov. 2013. Web. 25 July 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Games_p001.shtml>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2013, November 16). The Gaming Master. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Games_p001.shtml

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Last edit date: 2013-11-16

Introduction

The word ergonomics comes from the Greek words ergon (meaning "work") and nomos (meaning "rules"). Literally, ergonomics means the rules of working, but it is most commonly known as a field of study that seeks to design tools and environments so that humans can work at their best. Another term for ergonomics is Human Factors Engineering.

Scientists started thinking seriously about ergonomics during World War II when trying to improve the design of military aircraft. Scientists had two different kinds of questions when they were trying to improve the design of cockpits (the area where the pilot controls the plane): cognitive questions and physical questions. When scientists ask cognitive questions, they are trying to find out how a human thinks and feels. An example of a cognitive question is: "Will the pilot understand all the dials and controls?". When scientists ask physical questions, they are trying to find out if a human can do a task comfortably. An example of a physical question is: "Can the pilot easily reach all the dials and controls?" (MacLeod, 2000). Ergonomics analyzes how a person thinks and feels about a task he or she is working on and if that person can do the task without getting hurt.

Ergonomic concepts are used in many industries, such as in semiconductor and microchip factories, car factories, and in the NASA space program. As humans travel into space for longer and longer periods of time to complete missions, they will suffer loneliness and confinement. Loneliness and confinement are risk factors. If a human doesn't react well to these risk factors, then the productivity of the mission could be affected. In other words, astronauts might not get all of their tasks done, which could mean incomplete missions. That's a long trip to take and not finish your work! Technical demands on space crews require that humans and machines work well together in order to complete tasks (Habitability and Human Factors, Habitability and Environmental Factors Office, 2001). Equipment and controls have become much more complicated since the first U.S. space flight, increasing the need for ergonomic designs to make sure that the astronauts are happy and able to do their tasks well.

In this science project, try being an ergonomic specialist. You won't be working on a space mission, but something much closer to home. If you have a simple computer or video game, see how different postures and changes to the physical environment affect scores. Get several friends to help you with your project, and don't forget to have fun!

Industrial Engineering Science Project ergonomic computer workstation diagram
  1. Use a good chair with a dynamic chair back and sit back in it.
  2. The top of the monitor casing should be 2-3" (5-8 cm) above eye level.
  3. There should be no glare on the screen. Use an optical glass anti-glare filter where needed.
  4. Sit at arm's length from the monitor.
  5. Put your feet flat on the floor or on a stable footrest.
  6. Use a document holder, preferably in-line with the computer screen.
  7. Your wrists should be flat and straight in relation to your forearms so you can use the keyboard/mouse/input device comfortably.
  8. Make sure your arms and elbows are relaxed close to your body.
  9. Center the monitor and keyboard in front of you.
  10. Use a negative-tilt keyboard tray with an upper mouse platform or downward tiltable platform adjacent to the keyboard.
  11. Use a stable work surface and stable (no bounce) keyboard tray.
  12. Take frequent short breaks (micro breaks).

Ergonomic Computer Workstation Diagram (Alan Hedge, Cornell University). This figure shows the variables that an ergonomic specialist studies to determine the best working position for computer tasks.

Terms and Concepts

  • Ergonomics
  • Human factors
  • Human Factors Engineering
  • Industrial engineering

Questions

  • What variable makes the biggest change in score?
  • Can you build a gaming setup so that the gamer can maintain a comfortable body position?

Bibliography

  • MacLeod, D. The Rules of Work: A Practical Engineering Guide to Ergonomics. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2000.
  • Habitability and Human Factors, Habitability and Environmental Factors Office. (2001, November). Space Human Factors Engineering Project Plan. Retrieved February 20, 2008 from http://peer1.nasaprs.com/peer_review/prog/shfe_proj_plan.pdf
  • Learn more about what NASA is doing now in the area of Human Factors Engineering:
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (2008). Human Systems Integration Technologies. Retrieved March 14, 2008 from http://human-factors.arc.nasa.gov/techareas/tech_areas.php
  • Cornell University's Ergonomics website has some interesting ergonomics articles and cartoons for kids to look at, including the diagram from above:
  • For more information about the variables that an ergonomic specialist studies, take a look at:
    International Business Machines Corporation. Ergonomics Handbook. New York: International Business Machines Corporation, 1982.
  • For a general description of ergonomics, read the following Wikipedia entry:
    Wikipedia contributors. (2007). Ergonomics. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved February 20, 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ergonomics&oldid=193183332

Materials and Equipment

  • A simple computer or video game that produces scores (a basic puzzle game like Bejeweled® would work best)
  • A computer or gaming system on which to play your game
  • A chair
  • Volunteer gamers of equivalent skill (at least three)
  • Timer
  • Lab notebook
  • Graph paper

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Experimental Procedure

  1. In order to make sure that everyone knows how to play the game, have all of your volunteer gamers play for 30 minutes prior to starting the experiment. That way, the gamers can concentrate on scoring during the trials, rather than on questions about how to play the game. And you can focus on recording data.
  2. In your lab notebook, create a data table like the one below. In your first setup, Setup A, the gamer lies on his or her stomach and and is placed too close to the screen.
  3. Now you're ready to start. Select someone to be the first gamer you will evaluate. Set the timer to 30 minutes and ask the gamer to start playing in Setup A.
  4. At the end of the 30 minutes, note down the gamer's score or level he or she reached in your lab notebook. Ask the gamer how he or she feels. Are his or her eyes, wrists, or body tired? This is called fatigue. On a scale of 1 to 5 (where 1 is not fatigued and 5 is very fatigued), ask the gamer how fatigued he or she is. Record this information in your lab notebook.
  5. Once you have collected the data from Setup A, change to Setup B. In Setup B, the gamer is seated comfortably, but is still too close to the screen. Take a look at the Ergonomic Computer Work Station image above for ideas on how to seat the gamer comfortably. Have the gamer come back and play in Setup B for 30 minutes. At the end of game play, record the gamer's score and fatigue level.
  6. Now make changes to Setup B to create Setup C. Have the gamer comfortably seated and a comfortable distance from the screen. After you have made changes to the gaming environment, have the gamer come back and play again for 30 minutes. Insert the scores and fatigue level in your lab notebook.
  7. Now reset the gaming environment to Setup A. Repeat steps 3-6 two more times with the first gamer.
  8. Then perform steps 3–6 three times with each additional volunteer gamer. Always reset the gaming environment to Setup A when a new volunteer gamer starts to play. Each gamer should be playing each setup three times. Remember to continue collecting and recording the data in your lab notebook.

    Gamer Gaming Environment Description Score
    After 30 Minutes of Play
    Fatigue
    After 30 Minutes of Play
    (Scale of 1-5: 1 = not fatigued, 5 = very fatigued)
    #1 Setup A Trial 1:
    Trial 2:
    Trial 3:
    Setup BTrial 1:
    Trial 2:
    Trial 3:
    Setup C Trial 1:
    Trial 2:
    Trial 3:
    #2 Setup A . . .
    Setup B. . .
    Setup C . . .
    #3 Setup A . . .
    Setup B. . .
    Setup C . . .

  9. Look at all of the information you have collected. Plot the information you have on a bar chart on graph paper. Label the x-axis Gaming Environment and label the y-axis Score.
  10. Make a fatigue plot, too. Label the x-axis Gaming Environment and the y-axis Fatigue. Are there any interesting conclusions that you can draw from these plots?

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Variations

  • Extend the ergonomics concepts and tricks that you have learned to other task areas of your home. For example, can you make improvements to your homework desk or to the workshop in the garage?
  • Increase the game play time from 30 minutes to 45 minutes and then again to 1 hour. How does increasing time for a task affect how a human feels? If you improve the gaming environment, does the score improve after an hour of play?

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