The eyes are great sensors to understand the world around us, but we also use them to communicate non-verbally. For example, if someone keeps glancing at a water fountain while they are talking to you, you might infer they are thirsty. In a situation of conflict, staring straight in the eyes is taken as aggression and dominance, while gazing away is felt as submission. We wished to implement some of these reactions to gaze in virtual characters to study the impact on users and the feasability of doing so.
For this purpose, we created The Royal Corgi game. This is a fun, first-person game where characters are sensitive to the player's gaze and react to it. The goal of the game is to gain influence in a medieval court, and the player has to convince the characters that he or she should be appointed as the new Royal Corgi instructor. Players can walk to talk to different characters and choose different dialogue paths. They do not know in advance how characters will react to their gaze and progressively discover how to interact through the dialogues. In a qualitative user study, we have discovered that social gaze interaction created strong feelings of embodiment, as users physically "take on" the role of their character and have to "act" in a certain way to achieve their goal.
We believe using gaze in such a way has a great potential to increase immersion in first-person games. The video below shows the gameplay and some interaction examples: