Mobius Floe: VR Game for distraction

[Team Project] Mobius Floe (MF) experiments with virtual reality as well as auditory immersion, a more experimental approach to cognitive distraction for pain relief; the results were tested by acute as well as chronic pain patients to determine if chronic sufferers can benefit from similar VR practices as their acute counterparts. Mobius Floe’s game design is informed by contemporary game design theory and cognitive psychology in order to improve its distractive properties. Here, we introduce the gameplay and design metaphors of MF.

[My Role] Game designer, Developer, and Researcher.


Immersive Virtual Reality (VR) has been shown to work as a non-pharmacological analgesic by inducing [sic] cognitive distraction in acute pain patients. Researchers have shown that VR games have the potential to distract patients cognitively and function as a type of pain management therapy.


In two iterations, we demonstrated the fundamentals of designing Mobius Floe, as well as how it functions from three aspects: cognitive attentional distraction as the basic pain management strategy, a strong sense of immersion and embodiment in the virtual world, and relaxation and anxiety control.

version 1.0

version 2.0

In version 1.0, players are initially immersed in a virtual wintry setting where they glide through snowy paths and trails while experiencing action-packed encounters. The journey takes the player from a cozy cabin, out to a snowy landscape, and up a perilous mountain while constantly facing them with barriers and enemies that they have to contend with to get through. After completing the training inside the cabin, the player then explores the outside environment on a pre-defined path or invisible “rail.” As patients pass trees, they soon find themselves being approached by certain “trees” — monsters that appear to be halfneuron and half-tree. The Neuron Trees signify the dysfunctioning neurological systems in the human body that are part of what is causing the pain experience. Later on, in version 2.0, we added in more creatures, such as the otter, varied landscapes, and brightened the color theme according to the patients’ feedback.


In MF, we designed game mechanics with specific pain metaphors and therapeutic elements in immersive VR. In this paper, we analyze and explain the overall gameplay design principles and each pain metaphor element implemented in the game. We believe the design procedures and the way we implemented pain metaphors will inspire game design ideas in VR health game design and provide potentially useful references for other researchers and game designers.


Gromala, D., Tong, X., Shaw, C., Amin, A., Ulas, S., & Ramsay, G. (2016). Mobius floe: an immersive virtual reality game for pain distraction. Electronic Imaging, 2016(4), 1-5.

Choo, A., Tong, X., Gromala, D., & Hollander, A. (2014). Virtual reality and mobius floe: cognitive distraction as non-pharmacological analgesic for pain management. In Games for Health 2014 (pp. 8-12). Springer Vieweg, Wiesbaden.



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