Gaming & Internet Culture; A Multi-sensory Experience

A friend put it perfectly in a tweet just the other day:

I feel like this encapsulates my feelings towards both of those things. As you’ve probably seen in my past blogs I really like the culture of the internet, even the dark bits of it. It makes for a psychology that’s so chaotic yet colourful and beautiful at the same time. Hence why I enjoy YouTube Poops so much; they offer a succinct, humorous, and accessible way of defining the environment of the internet.

I feel the same toward gaming for similar reasons, yet quite different reasons. Modern video games are a truly magnificent amalgamation of past mediums. Elegantly weaved together they don’t only tell stories of characters, but of entire worlds, and galaxies. They offer a space to explore, not simply a narrative to obediently follow along. Video games create a space for a player to have their own take on the world, or completely submit to it’s rules in an act of roleplaying.

Both of these things share the defining characteristic of being a fusion of multimedia, where Internet Culture is more like the documentary of modern society, video games are the feature film or major publication of a particular set of ideas explored through multimedia.

Curiously, I hail both forms of multimedia as supreme primarily because they directly stimulate more than one sense at a time, something very desirable for a mind and eccentric and sporadic as mine. If we were to look to the future in this same idea of multi-sensory stimulation, can we expect both the olfactory (smells) and physical senses to be stimulated? Google joked about Google Nose during last April Fools but I feel like in the next 5 or 10 years this sort of technology will be available because, really, think of the millions of people who would not only photograph their meal through Instagram, but share the smell too. It would be truly wonderful to share the sensory experience of a warm cinnamon roll fresh out of a local french bakery.

Susan Sontag makes some claims about why we use photography in her book On Photography and I feel it can easily be extended to both my Instagram example, and video games too. She suggests that we take photographs as a form of evidence, for example tourism. We take these photographs to show that we’ve been to a particular place, and should we introduce further senses (i.e. smell) to various media it will deepen that evidence.

Sharing a sensory experience could very well come back to video games too. Imagine this for a moment: You’re playing Mass Effect 6 (or something of the like) you enter into an extraterrestrial nightclub on a pink planet deep in some party hard nebula on the other end of the milky way. The lights are nigh on blinding; spasmodic and immensely colourful. The sounds are familiar being the glitch style so well defined by this particular alien DJ. Then you notice the smell; the stench of a thousand alien beings offending your sensible human senses. The nasal sting (with a hint of fruity sweetness) of foreign alcohol so strong you feel intoxicated by just the scent of it. You thought female human perfume was offensive, the musk from the alien ladies here is substantial enough to sate your appetite for the evening.

You can tell I have a thing for sci-fi games huh? But just imagine the limitless number of synthesised smells to augment the mystical environments the game developers come up with. Wonderful.

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