Archive for August, 2007

Out of body gaming

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

Yesterday, news reported of scientists artificially creating out of body exeriences. This is extremely cool! One interesting thing is that the newscast I watched approached the news from the gaming side. “A discovery that may revolutionize the gaming industry,” they called it.

Well, I’m not sure I see that coming anytime soon. The discovery made by these scientists is probably important, but if you put it into perspective, there are a couple of interesting questions that come to mind.

1. Have people already experienced out of body sensations while playing games? I think it’s fairly probable that it might happen in the right circumstances. The experiment referenced above is extremely simple so an out of body experience while playing Half Life, for instance, might happen by accident. It might also be possible to induce the experience by other, equally simple, means. Does it have to be visual and physical input that matches? How accurate need it be?

2. How easy is it to ruin the sensation? Firstly, I suspect that the VR goggles used in the experiment are really important since they visually isolate the subject from the “real world”. Secondly, the physical sensation that induce the out of body experience will, most likely, need to be consistent. This means that in a game, everything that happens to the player character must be felt by the player. Furthermore, I suspect that no other physical input than those the game induces should be experienced while playing. It might work if the player is put into a float tank with some nifty suit that can induce physical input, but this sounds like lots of new technology that I believe are still pretty far off.

3. How adaptive is the brain to these types of sensations? Can humans learn to separate the sensation from the induced experience from real life? If so, it would probably be possible to make better equipment to get more accurate results, but if the brain can adapt to that, we have an arms race going. And then – is there a reachable border where we can’t make that distinction anymore?

Still, I think it would be very interesting to create a gaming experience that utilizes this experiment’s results in a clever way. Maybe all it takes is a pair of VR goggles, a Wiimote with rumble and some clever game design?