FaceEngage: Robust Estimation of Gameplay Engagement from User-Contributed (YouTube) Videos

Xu Chen, Li Niu, Ashok Veeraraghavan, Ashutosh Sabharwal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Measuring user engagement in interactive tasks can facilitate numerous applications toward optimizing user experience, ranging from eLearning to gaming. However, a significant challenge is the lack of non-contact engagement estimation methods that are robust in unconstrained environments. We present FaceEngage, a non-intrusive engagement estimator leveraging user facial recordings during actual gameplay in naturalistic conditions. Our contributions are three-fold. First, we show the potential of using front-facing videos as training data to build the engagement estimator. We compile FaceEngage Dataset with over 700 picture-in-picture, realisitic, and user-contributed YouTube gaming videos (i.e., with both full-screen game scenes and time-synchronized user facial recordings in subwindows). Second, we develop FaceEngage system, that captures relevant gamer facial features from front-facing recordings to infer task engagement. We implement two FaceEngage pipelines: an estimator trained on user facial motion features inspired by prior psychological works, and a deep learning-enabled estimator. Lastly, we conduct extensive experiments and conclude: (i) certain user facial motion cues (e.g., blink rates, head movements) are engagement-indicative; (ii) our deep learning-enabled FaceEngage pipeline can automatically extract more informative features, outperforming the facial motion feature-based pipeline; (iii) FaceEngage is robust to various video lengths, users/game genres and interpretable. Despite the challenging nature of realistic videos, FaceEngage attains the accuracy of 83.8 percent and leave-one-user-out precision of 79.9 percent, both of which are superior to our face motion-based model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-665
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Affective Computing
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022


  • Engagement estimation
  • deep neural networks
  • video analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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