Mobius Floe is an immersive virtual reality game designed as a tool to help chronic and acute pain patients lower their pain and anxiety. Patients are immersed in a virtual wintry setting where they hike through snowy paths and trails while experiencing action-packed encounters. Patients are presented with a world so captivating that it enables them to feel as if they are inside or part of the world itself. The game also includes many tasks that stimulate the patients’ working memory and seek their constant attention, thus drawing the patients’ focus away from their physical pain.

During burn patient wound care, immersion from SnowWorld, a virtual reality game has drawn patient’s attention away from their embodied experience of pain and toward the virtual three-dimensional environment and its current happenings. SnowWorld has some degree of Flow and is discussed widely in virtual reality literature. However, the player could only throw snowballs while moving at a fixed rate on a pre-determined pathway; the player could be hit by snowballs from enemies but were not meaningfully impacted from this in the gameplay. There is no perceivable consequence to inaction in SnowWorld when clear reactions from the game world in response to the player are necessary to create an engaging design. Mobius Floe aims to learn from game design literature and improve upon previous attempts such as SnowWorld’s at immersive virtual reality treatments for pain patients by extending the software’s ability to become immersive and cognitively distract in a more reliable fashion. Most importantly, to corporate ‘pain distraction’ strategy into CHRONIC conditions and test how effective such VR technology systems could be for chronic pain patients.

In contrast to Virtual Meditative Walk (VMW), Mobius Floe does the opposite by focusing the patient away from their bodily awareness through continuously engaging distractions, which help reduce the intensity of perceived pain. User testing of our current designs with acute and chronic pain patients in a qualitative fashion will be critically important to evaluate the effectiveness of Mobius Floe for purposes of perceived pain reduction. We will conduct several case studies with pain patients from Greater Vancouver to help evaluate our design decisions and the effectiveness of cognitive distraction in each Mobius Floe scene. Auditory immersion in particular is a new attempt at a non-pharmacological analgesic which may serve as a complementary pain reduction method to those already established, and must be evaluated and compared against traditional visual immersive virtual reality applications in order to better situate its place in the research field.

Mobius Floe is unique in the sense that its design is inspired by pain patient’s social and cultural embodied experiences and understandings and is informed and designed with the help of pain patients themselves; these notions manifests through various design metaphors throughout the game space. Additionally, Mobius Floe experiments with auditory immersion and its potential for non-pharmacological analgesic benefit, and is informed by contemporary game design theory in order to strengthen its cognitively distractive effects. However, a topic we have not yet brushed upon but are interested in is the retention of pain experience metaphors and how they translate to new patients. Mobius Floe also aims to distinguish itself from ordinary games by connecting well with pain patient experience, and so these questions must be addressed with involved case studies.

Simon Fraser University Pain Studies Lab

  • Dr. Diane Gromala
  • Dr. Chris Shaw
  • Amber Choo
  • Chao Feng


  • Mark Nazemi
  • Gillian Ramsay
  • Xin Tong
  • Cheryl Yu

Funded by

  • Chronic Pain Research Institute, SFU
  • Grand-NCE