However, courtesy of the latest edition of the b3ta weekly newsletter of new flash movies and other interesting and usually off-colour URLs (circulation 50,000+), I can suggest which links are most likely to be shooting up tomorrow's chart:
The web's best crazy golf game ever. Unfortunately I picked the wrong week to change video cards; the replacement I put in might work, but it makes the game almost unplayably slow.
A far more interesting interaction between sex and games than the tired old "BMX XXX", or the rumble-pack taken to its logical conclusion. Caution: link contains photos that may not be work-safe. (Not sure if any of you work on a Saturday.)
The short version is that Rez is a first-person-perspective forward-motion shoot'em'up in the old-fashioned style of the wonderful Space Harrier (or, more recently, Panzer Dragoon). The theming of the game, mostly spurious, harks back to the man-in-the-machine likes of "Tron". The interesting feature about the game is that the musical aspect is played up, with the experience designed to be caused by a psychedelic soundtrack and psychedelic visuals tied in to the player's actions. There is a synesthesia motif - the union of senses, seeing the music, hearing the visuals. One would wonder what Jeff Minter would think of it. The site which I believed to contain Jeff's weblog - http://www.magicnet.net/~yak/ - seems to be down. Does anyone know if it has moved?
The really interesting feature, the one that's catching the world's attention, is that the game is also being sold with a device called a "Trance Vibrator". It's what it says: a little black box which vibrates. You connect it to your Playstation 2 and it vibrates along in time with the game. The vibrations are apparently rather intense, certainly considerably stronger than you would get from a traditional Rumble Pak. And, er, that's it. There aren't many different things you can do with a vibrating box.
The author of the article is one Miyuki Jane Pinckard, also responsible for all the possible hobbit names in the hobbit name generator. I cannot improve on her forthright method of expressing her thoughts: "Another issue [...] is the shape of the device [...]. That's why I was so excited by Rez's trance vibrator, since it seems to have no other purpose than to act as a masturbatory aid. Its shape is pretty nice, it can slip easily under your skirt or in your panties, it comes with a protective "glove" which you can wash, and it emits a regular pulsating rhythm that gets ever more intense and thrilling the deeper you go into the game."
Synesthesia indeed. The more of your senses an experience can trigger, the more memorable it is. As well as incorporating sight and sound, this is a benign way to incorporate touch and apparently a much more successful one than just the traditional Rumble Pak. If the game has sufficient psychedelic appeal to get the three senses working together in the overall experience then it truly is an interesting new direction for games. I think it will be rather harder for a video game to ever convince with smell or taste, though I know a few games were trying with such gimmicks, mostly at a scratch'n'sniff level, over ten years ago.
There have been suggestions that the product might not exist and/or that the article was written by a man under a female pseudonym. Possible, but there's a fair degree of independent evidence to suggest both are accurate. Jane is clearly very sexually confident to give such unambiguous pictures and such a clear account of her experiences with the game. I've said before that I'm always impressed by people who are sexually confident, which is rather different from being sexually aggressive or sexually promiscuous. (Over the last couple of years, I've been thrilled to get to know - albeit from a distance - more ladies who are sexually confident than I ever did over my first 25 years. Ah, the consequences of a boys' school education.) One does wonder what was going through her mind later on in the experience, to what extent she was thinking about the game, to what extent she was thinking about the music and to what extent she was thinking about her boyfriend Justin. Such thoughts are, rightfully, hers and hers alone.
It's interesting to think what a video game can do in terms of touch. We've had arcade games which throw you around for many years, most famously the old, hydraulically powered racing games like Out Run and WEC Le Mans and a few other shoot'em'ups like Space Harrier (happy, nostalgic sigh) and After Burner. The state of the art in such games is probably the R-360 version of G-LOC, with close-to-360° of rotation in each of three independent axes. (I don't like roller-coasters, but I did enjoy my single game of this and would happily play it again some day.) These are all rather unsubtle, though.
On a hand- level, rather than a body- level, force-feedback joysticks and force-feedback steering wheels have been around for years. There are also force-feedback mice, but (despite positive feedback from those who have used them) they haven't caught on in the mainstream. The news last week (translation: I can't find a URL for this) discussed developments in tactile gloves, people shaking hands over the Internet and rudimentary experiments in co-operative physical tasks. All baby steps, but I'm not sure what towards. There must be other useful and pleasurable tactile entertainment goals other than sexual ones, but I'm not sure that there are many different ones. Might you be able to accurately and enjoyably simulate stroking your next virtual pet, for instance?
At a less benign level, there's also a rather grisly piece of concept art called the PainStation which delights in its three different methods of torture. I don't consider it to be at all a plausible or desirable development for the mainstream. I'm not even sure that it's the sort of thing which many members of the BDSM community would enjoy, from what little I know of it. The people behind it are exploring other similar "art entertainment interfaces" which you can read about at their "FUR" site and not all of them involve inflicting electric shocks. The "His Master's Voice" sonically-driven "semi-autonomous ball robot board game" sounds extremely interesting.
Game controller designers Mad Catz, Inc. were discussing concepts of controlled electrical feedback with their BioForce controllers, but nothing has yet come to fruition there and I suspect that nothing more than a gimmick might ever come to fruition in practice. (Talking of Mad Catz, they are meant to have had a Dreamcast controller with an extremely intense Rumble Pak in the past, though, apparently more violent than the Trance Vibrator.)
We hear about teledildonics and initiatives like FuckUFuckMe from time to time, but I've always perceived that they set out to only consider the physical dimensions of intimacy. If Rez does provide some sort of convincing emotional experience to go with the sensations then it's possibly the most important development in entertainment of the 21st century so far. If it can establish some sort of new relationship between the player of Rez and someone else benefiting from the vibrations produced then so much the better. Even if it does turn out to be little more than a slightly different sort of solo masturbation tool - insert your own Brian Blessed "Palm Pilot" joke here - then that's still of inherent interest itself. Another related question is whether women can get as involved with relationships between game characters as they can in ones between story characters. Please could anyone tell me whether it is men or women who tend to write more video game fan fiction?
I would be very interested to see the game in action, both with and without accompanying vibrator. No "see the action" jokes are intended here. (Yes, yes, there's a whole new branch of geek porn waiting to be started here - I know, I should be trying to make a fortune by beating the rest of the world to the world's first Rez porn site and so on.) I do suspect that men could strongly enjoy the sensations produced by using the device too; bluntly, I'm not sure whether it would be possible to induce a male orgasm from it or not, but it certainly would be fun trying. If I owned a Playstation 2 (and if I lived among the right sort of company...) then I would be taking a practical, not just a theoretical, interest in this. The scope for thought on this subject is considerable.
There definitely is untapped potential in both the concept of the interaction of vibration and entertainment and the Rez trance vibrator that already exists, though, for the sexually adventurous of both genders and of all sexual preferences. Developments are awaited with interest!
Other news: we hired a team to demolish the wall around our front garden today. Builders will be constructing a replacement over the coming week. Exciting photos of walls to follow if you're very very lucky.