The Tactile Side of Games

Illustration for article titled The Tactile Side of Games

Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of having a mahjong addict neighbor can attest to the double-edged sword that is traditional table games: the sensation of having smooth and cool tiles in your hand can be a pleasurable one, but damn it all if that incessant shuffling isn't irritating after hours and hours of it into the wee hours. Still, it's the positives of the sense of touch that Ian Bogost picks up on in his latest Gamasutra column. Using the classic game of Go as a starting point and ending with Rez, he takes a look at what games can do — and maybe should do — to enhance the tactile pleasure of playing:

... the potential is great. We craft every aspect of videogame worlds in excruciating detail: the marbled, diffracted surfaces of water, the filthy grit of alleyways, the splintered grain of bombed-out church rafters.

We render the visual and aural aspects of these worlds in startling vividness and at great expense. But those worlds remain imprisoned behind the glass of our televisions and our monitors. Rez shows us that as far as texture is concerned, games can be as much like food as they are like film.

He's clearly not advocating that all games can — or should — be Rez, but it's just another aspect we should be paying attention to. And, unlike a lot of ideas that get floated about improving the gamer-game interaction, ramping up the tactile factor when warranted seems easy enough to do.

Persuasive Games: Texture [Gamasutra]

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DISCUSSION

@gozirah: Not any that I can think of off-hand. It's the sort of thing you might not really notice though. Like for instance, there are several games where at some point you have to twist the remote to turn a key or a tap or something. Usually when you've turned it far enough there will be an audio cue. Is there rumble as well? Probably, but I don't remember.

(Obviously that's not as 'essential' as you described, but it's the same principle.)

I think it would need another generation of controllers (and some more complex tactile feedback than the Wiimote has; iirc it's just one vibration motor) to really improve this. But even without actual feedback or without making it actually 'necessary' in a game sense (i.e. you could have pressed a button with the same effect), Wii games that use the motions well definitely do feel more tactile/physically involving - when you twist that key, you're twisting it for real.