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Feature: 'Persuasive Games: Texture'

Author/designer Ian Bogost (Fatworld) looks at 'texture' in games - the art of connecting the virtual to the real via rumble and physical simulation, from Hard Drivin' to Rez and beyond.

Eric Caoili

May 7, 2008

2 Min Read

Author/designer Ian Bogost (Fatworld) looks at 'texture' in games - the art of connecting the virtual to the real via rumble and physical simulation, from Hard Drivin' to Rez and beyond. Using Chinese strategy game Go as a jump-off point, Bogost describes the importance of the board game's tactility, noting details like the differences in feel and weight of the game's stones to show how these add to Go's texture: "Go is a cerebral, minimalist game that exudes purity and austerity. Computer versions of Go adapt these values unflappably. Although purists favor silence in selecting and holding a stone, for me Go is a game of rummaging for a stone in a smooth wooden bowl and stroking it in thought before placing it to mark territory. These features are not unique to Go, but they are distinctive. In Chess, the pieces rest on the board, or off, never to be touched save to punctuate decision. Although both games are cerebral, Go is far more sensual. Go reminds us that the physical world -- games included -- have texture. They offer tactile sensations that people find interesting on their own." One title that stands out for its purposeful incorporation of tactile elements is Tetsuya Mizuguchi's rail shooter Rez. Originally released for the Dreamcast in 2001, the PlayStation 2 special edition bundle included a "trance vibrator" peripheral, a plastic device that "pulses" with its rumble motor in time with the game's electronica music and enemy positioning: "The player already has a tactile relationship with the music via timed button presses on the controller, but the trance vibrator allows him to experience the texture of the music, translated into continuous tactile sensations, at the same time as the musical texture is also translated visually into neon abstractions. Although Mizuguchi denies that the trance vibrator was intended to be a sexual add-on for Rez, that obvious use has been well documented. The potential for sexual pleasure only underscores the way Rez's use of rumble focuses on a different kind of tactility than does Halo or Gran Turismo: in Rez, the player touches the surface of the game itself. The texture of neon light and synth phrases produce a surface one can literally feel. You can now read the full feature on the importance of texture and how video game developers have incorporated immersion features and hardware to add texture to their games (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

About the Author(s)

Eric Caoili

Blogger

Eric Caoili currently serves as a news editor for Gamasutra, and has helmed numerous other UBM Techweb Game Network sites all now long-dead, including GameSetWatch. He is also co-editor for beloved handheld gaming blog Tiny Cartridge, and has contributed to Joystiq, Winamp, GamePro, and 4 Color Rebellion.

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