Editor's Note

Editor's Note
Hands-On Gaming

Julianne Capps | 26 Sep 2006 12:00
Editor's Note - RSS 2.0

Fighting with a broadsword is hard. First there's all the trouble of swinging a large steel object around with one hand, much less one that requires two hands. And then add on top of this the trouble of armor; whether you use chain mail (which is silly heavy) or you use leather (lighter, but a little more stiff) you just really don't know the extent to which until you've been there. Trust me. I've done it.

Yes, I've donned the leather armor and stepped into the ring. I've used a one-handed sword, and a two-handed one to more success. I've dealt with the relative inability to duck or twist my upper body to anything approaching my full flexibility range because of the armor, while wielding a several pound steel blade.

These were not fully choreographed demonstrations our troop put on, but rather, a few choreographed moves inserted here and there into a contest, much like that of a fencing match. We were attempting to show audiences what battle in medieval times may have been like, using replica equipment and moves.

Do I think it worked? Somewhat. Certainly, during the demonstrations, people got very into the fights - they cheered and crowd favorites were chosen. Afterward, we got tons of questions: How heavy is the sword? Quite. Isn't it hard to move in the armor? It is. Did you know that sparks flew from the swords? Yep. Can I have a picture with you? Um, sure. People were getting that this wasn't something that was something you could walk off the street and do easily. But they still didn't get it. They were just watching.

Now, had we been demonstrating moves and having them mirror us, they may have gotten it a little better. True, they wouldn't have had the armor or the weight of the sword, but they would have been moving, employing the mechanics and touch sense. And that extra stimulus would have conveyed more, been more of an experience.

What is the nature of "experience?" Do we not experience the world through our senses; are these not our inputs describing what is around us that our brain might better understand? Thus far, games have focused mainly on two: sight and hearing. Over the years, the audio and visual have been improving, becoming more and more realistic, so much so that we've pretty much reached a point of diminishing returns, when comparing financial input to visual and audio output. In addition, we've reached a point where many of the games' offerings outclass the hardware on the gamers' end - graphics are now only as good as a player's HDTV, if he even has one.

Where does that leave us when we are looking to improve the gameplay experience? It's time to start incorporating the other senses. And since Smellyvision hasn't really caught on (can't imagine why), and developers will be hard pressed to get a gamer to stop drinking Bawls long enough to taste some blood-on-your-lip-ambience, we're left with touch.

And really, the touch output is the one over which a developer can have the most control. Games like Guitar Hero prove that a gamer will go out and buy a controller made for one game and one game only, provided it's a great experience. So, it makes sense that this is the next step in game design, why we're starting to see more games involving movement. It is the easiest next sense to involve. Plus, the tactile nature gives a feeling of doing, rather than just watching. It makes the game more of an experience, and isn't experience what it's all about?

Cheers,

-Julianne Greer

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