Sensation and Perception

Artists attempt to appeal to as many of the five human senses as possible when creating their art.  Especially in videogame programing and graphic design, as the technology has grown, designers, have been able to use three of the five senses:  Seeing, hearing, and touch.  Consider the earliest games.  For example, Donkey Kong (an obvious example) has elements which appeal to the three senses stated above.  Any video game must have the visual aspect in order to be existential.  DK also has sound effects which appeal to the sense of hearing.  As for touch, the sense of the joystick and buttons in the gamers hands are the only link between touch and the video game.  Now, consider “today’s” games.  For example, Gran Tourismo for the Sony Playstation, has appealed to all three senses, but in a more expanded and refined way.  A shift from viewing a “board” on DK to viewing a dashboard of a car and moving gauges in real time in first person view, from hearing “bleep bleep” to hearing the sound of a 500hp engine and turbo in 5.1 digital surround sound, and from feeling a joystick and buttons to feeling the rumble of the controller as the car crashes into the guard rail.

We can certainly agree that this is a clear shift from hypermediacy to immediacy.  The environment of DK is such where playing on a huge console and viewing 16bit graphics is what makes the game an arcade game.  Game designers are now concerning themselves with doing away with the “medium” part of the equation of a game.  We humans like to perceive our senses as real life experiences.  The closer we get to “being in the action” of what the game is trying to portray, the more likely we are to be aroused by the experience.  Although hypermediacy is still very existent in today’s technology (web page layouts), immediacy is in control of the video game world.

Let’s think about our most valuable sense, vision.  Humans are known to have exceptional eyesight because we have defined ways to perceive what we sense through our eyes.  Our two binocular clues, convergence and retinal disparity, allow us to have depth perception.  As an image moves closer to our eyes our eyes converge toward the middle of our face in order to continue to see the image, this convergence is a clue to us that the image is indeed moving toward us.  Similarly, as an image moves closer to us, each of our eyes has an increasingly different view of the image because of convergence.  Our monocular cues allow perception through only one eye.  The most important monocular cue game designers are using in creating their games today and shifting to immediacy, is linear perspective.  As two lines converge on each other toward the top of the page or screen, we can perceive the images at the top of the screen as farther away.  Although we are sensing the light on the screen as a flat screen, how we perceive it, is what makes us feel like “we are there”.  The closer video games get to refining their ability to appeal to our binocular and monocular cues, the more we will enjoy the “real life” experience associated with today’s games

–Ted Gargano


One thought on “Sensation and Perception”

  1. Great observations. I wonder if making games feel like we are there will be the true mark of excellence expressed by your post? What is the point of re-creating a reality that already exists around us? Can fantasy worlds, even if brought to physical form, actually be anything other than remediated art and fiction?

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