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The Esoteric Beat: Electrodes, Health, 2nd Person Shooters

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 remote controlled people,...
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 remote controlled people, medical gaming and the second-person shooter. - In this week's mildly disturbing science news: remote controlled people are a reality. Yes, unlikely Japanese science has brought us the most outlandish of science fictional concepts and made it work on real people, right now. The invention which makes this possible, a harness which attaches electrodes to the back of the subject's skull, is a device that confuses the body's natural balance mechanisms, meaning that when a 'pilot' uses the remote control to direct someone, they are put off balance and, as a result, end up moving in that direction. What possible relevance could this have for games? Well, the manipulation of balance impacts on perception as well as motor functions, so someone in a 3D environment would feel motion as well as seeing it projected in front of him or her. Developers at Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Company also expect the device to have application in commercial flight simulators, that epitome of the videogame turned pro. - Quite what the effect of long-term electrode-stimulation of the human skull would be, we couldn't possibly say, but hopefully someone will find out. You never know, it might even be good for us. And even if games aren't already beneficial to our state of health, then by goodness they're going to be - at least that's part of the aim of the organization 'Games For Health', which has just announced its Second Annual Games for Health Conference, to be held in Baltimore on September 22-23 of this year. Games For Health is a professional-focused initiative that is attempting to bring together "researchers, medical professionals, and game developers to share information about the impact games and game technologies can have on health care and policy." Seminars include discussions of games such as cancer-education project Ben's Game and the use of games for pain distraction in hospitals. If ever there was a worthy games initiative, then this is it. - Finally this week: some genuinely weird game design. It was years ago that I first heard somebody jokingly bring up the idea of a 'second-person shooter', but few people would have the balls (or the skills, or the inclination) to take it beyond a joke and into the realms of actual, playable code. One of those few is self-styled Media Theorist and founder of game art site Select Parks, Julian Oliver. His experimental game design has been exploring just how a second person shooter might actually work in a simple demo piece that he is continuing to develop over time. It's a peculiar experience, to say the least. "To my great amusement, it's a complete and total pain in the arse," says Oliver. The game, in which you and your opponent must work together to be able to kill each other, can be downloaded from the Select Parks website. [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his progressive games journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times, to name but a few.]

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