The latest goings-on in esoteric game topics for 'The Esoteric Beat' column include looking at VR for insects, screaming into a helmet to speed up the action in an experimental racing game, and why playing games can lead to death - eventually.
Welcome to 'The Esoteric Beat', the news report that provides new and unusual ways to think about games and culture. This week's column looks at VR for insects, screaming and weird cliques.
You remember the weird kid from school that used to keep insects as pets? Well his fever-induced dream of providing a virtual interactive environment for his pet house crickets has become a reality.
Boggle-ye-not, for this is a genuine art project by interactive artist Amy Youngs, a inventive individual who has a residency at Pilchuck Glass School. Working with the hopes and truncated intellects of crickets, she has created an enclosure that simulates an outdoor environment for their tiny minds.
She explains: "This enclosure provides an artificial landscape and provides a simulation of motion through it. Through the use of a computer interface, the crickets are able to "interact" with their projected environment by chirping. Each chirp advances the panoramic, cricket-eye-view video footage of outdoor scenery." Are the crickets fooled? It's hard to say, but it's got to be better than living in a jam-jar in the weird kid's toy cupboard.
Even weirder than the cricket VR is the Motor Karaoke installation at the ultra-hip Glassbox gallery in Paris. It's a racing game in which the screams of the crash-helmeted players power the vehicles.
The louder they scream, the faster the racing vehicle travels. For maximum incredulity, check out this video demonstration. (950k MOV) We're vaguely expecting to see a Nintendo DS conversion of this in the coming year...
A Game Too Far
AFP has reported that a 38-year-old South Korean man has collapsed and died after an extended gaming session, in which he spent ten days in an Internet café in Incheon, west of Seoul. Didn't anyone think to disturb him after a week? Following another Korean death in August, people are starting to ask questions about the addictiveness of games.
I'd rather ask questions about the mental health of someone who would sit playing games for such extended periods, and the social responsibility of the people around him. Strange though that these deaths should be occurring in public places. Surely it's far easier to sit and play until you die in the comfort of your own home?
The Lizards Come Up
Finally, we have to mention the sequel to Samorost, a weird little Flash adventure-puzzle game that has a distinct and surreal visual style, similar to the strange stop-frame animations that emerged from Eastern Europe since the 1940s. It's unique, and you should take the time to have a look.
[Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]
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