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Mind Games - the future of Gaming? Options
Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2008 2:38:48 PM

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First there was Mindball, an EEG-based game that you win by pushing a ball through the power of concentration alone:

Now there is Emotiv's new headset, which allows game companies to develop more sophisticated games, controlled by your thoughts:

Next up: Wii meets Optical Topography?

Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2008 5:14:36 PM

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You have to wonder, just exactly how far game designers would fare with the advent of more and more "intuitive" input mechanisms. I can't help but feel that as the technology develops, a tectonic shift in game types and genres will too come upon us.

What I mean is, you can see that as hardware works itself up to "mind control", developers and console manufacturers will be jumping all over it like a sand-flea on the beach. Look how successful the Wii's waggle-control is (although we will not discuss how much the games actually suck).

All well and good. But what then happens when the next logical step is to remove the traditional barrier of looking at a screen? By that point we can safely assume that graphics will have reached, if not surpassed, the "uncanny valley". Now, you could say that being genuinely "immersed" in the game will be a reality, with no need for screens, goggles or ludicrous VR-helmets (which, incidentally, are no use to those of us with a lazy eye and no true stereo vision anyhow).

Sounds fantastic. But I can't help but see a downside. How soon would it be, do you think, before some future Jack Thompson starts shouting about the effect of videogames on people's mental health? What I am ranging my sights at here specifically is games that are viewed as "hardcore" - violent or shooting-based games. Would we see a death of my personal favorite, the first-person shooter? Or the horror/survival horror genre?

I can't help but shake this worry that as the immersion in games increases, so will the edginess of these games decrease to a more casual, family level. After all, if I put you in a decrepit house, armed with a shotgun, and a whole boatload of zombies in real life, you would probably soil yourself, crawl into a corner and die from eating your own face like a gibbering loon. Now, imagine that you willingly go into a virtual environment that is close, but not indistinguishable, from that. You perceive the world directly in your mind, your thoughts control your actions. Even without smell or haptic feedback, and despite the fact you KNOW you are not in any danger, I would still have doubts for the cleanliness of your pants, or your sanity. There would be the landmark court case of a game developer being sued to heck and back because someone played their scary or stressful game and suffered heart failure. Or, more likely, there would be a lot more Korean gamer dudes who died from three-day non-stop gaming marathons. What developer would want to put themselves at risk of that? Not many, not even Rockstar, I suspect :)

I fear that as we have today so many people rallying to ban adult games that involve violence because of the perceived harm they do, mentally and societally (a viewpoint which I vehemently oppose, until someone offers me absolute proof), what hope will there be when games are in our heads?

Personally, if the future holds nothing but Mario party games and safe, friendly fluffy-bunny candy-filled puzzles, shoot me :)

When the dinosaur woke up, it was still there.
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