They Want To Let You Smell Your Video Games

Illustration for article titled They Want To Let You Smell Your Video Games

If gamers have a favorite buzzword, I'd say it's "immersion." We want to be immersed in the games we play, we want the experience to envelop us as best it can. To that end we've had motion controls, virtual reality—things that enhance our experience by involving more of our senses. But smell? Smell is mostly off the radar, even though scent can be powerfully evocative.

Today at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco I met the folks at Sensory Acumen. They had a large black device:

Illustration for article titled They Want To Let You Smell Your Video Games

They pressed a button and I could smell something resembling chocolate emanating from the unfortunately-named "Game Skunk" device. So it's not quite there yet, but still—it was enough to make me hungry. I could see this device being a menace in games like Cooking Mama.

Beyond games, I was told that they're interested in using the device for therapy, particularly for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

At this rate, soon someone will invent the Smell-O-Scope from Futurama!

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While I think this is an interesting idea, the problem with it in video games is threefold:

1. I'm just not sure there's a market for it. I've never really though "Yeah, but this game would be so much better if I could just SMELL it." (I guess Cooking Mama would be interesting — if you messed up the recipe it'd let out a foul, burnt odor? More incentive to get it right next time, I guess.)

2. Most game worlds would not particularly smell good. Ferelden is said to constantly smell like wet dog. Battlefields frequently do not smell too pleasant. I wouldn't want to smell things in murder mysteries, that's for sure. So the question of how many games would you even want to smell kind of limits the market. I don't really want to smell sulfur while playing a shooter, say. I think that might actually make it too real for me. Maybe other people would disagree.

3. Who designs the smells? Is it Sensory Acumen, or is it the game devs? Because if it doesn't sell well because of 1 and 2, then developers probably won't want to spend the resources developing this.

Though, to be honest, playing an RPG and smelling fish and spices as I walk through the market, smelling dankness while I go through a dungeon, smelling sea breeze on a ship — I could definitely see the appeal. (Especially if it was a first person RPG)