11 November, 2006
Humans have five traditional senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste. (I’ve used my sixth sense to know that some might want to talk about the sixth sense or other “senses”, but let’s leave those aside for now.) Games traditionally focus on the first two: sight and hearing. Most advances in technology have focused on graphical presentation, or how to fool the eye into thinking it is seeing more than it really is; that is, a 3D representation of a world on a 2D surface. Some advances have been made in hearing as well; music and good sound are slowly being recognized as some of more important elements of games. (We’ve come along way since PC speaker sound, at least!)
The other three senses don’t get so much attention. We have a bit of touch response with force feedback controllers, but this is a very gross level of feedback. You can’t “touch” something soft in a game and actually get the sensation on your own fingers. Companies in the past have tried to push digital scents, but people don’t really seem to want the fresh scent of gunpowder and rotting corpses while playing for some reason. Similarly, although I’m sure someone out there wonders what the zombie tastes like, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of progress on that front.
So, here’s this week’s challenge: can you develop a way to include other senses in a game? Some initial thoughts after the break.
At the recent Project Horseshoe get-together, Raph gave a talk about Influences. One bit in particular was interesting:
[W]hy is there no game about the taste of a freshly picked peach, straight from the tree, with the smells and dust of the working orchard? How do you make a game about that?
[Audience response:] “Because my monitor tastes like crap.” “It’s a human interface problem.”
It isn’t just an interface problem! It isn’t just an interface problem! There are probably poems about the taste of a fresh peach.
So, can you make a game about the taste of a peach (or, more generally, the eating of a peach) that the average player would understand? How can you include other sensory aspects besides just visuals and audio? Is Raph right to point out the fact that poetry can communicate this feeling, and by extension games should be able to as well?
I’ll post my thoughts later after a bit of discussion by others.