Change Is Inevitable, Improvement Is Doubtful: Biometric “Innovations” For Video Games


As time goes by, people will often try and reinvent the wheel in whatever way they can. Sometimes they strike gold and everybody thinks this new idea works fantastically, other times a good idea is brought down with horrible execution. Then there are those ideas, be it a gimmick that everybody forgot or an idea so stupid it was taken down from Kickstarter for whatever reason plus the bit where it was profoundly moronic. I’d just like to take a quick look at some of the bad, support-less or absolutely thoughtless additions and advents that gaming has had the unfortunate pleasure of being subject to.

The Wii Vitality Sensor.


With the Wii selling like hot cakes and the whole “gaming as a means to get fit” storm hitting everywhere with the success of Wii Fit and the like, it was inevitable that there would be some sort of push into having biometric data being incorporated into games in some form. That was Nintendo’s thinking or what I imagine their thinking was when they decided to create and release the Wii Vitality Sensor, a small little device that would click onto your finger and feedback information like your “pulse and a number of other signals being transmitted by their bodies, and will then provide information to the users about the body’s inner world”. Yes that’s right, your pulse and “other signals”, we don’t even know what it can fully do let alone what the plan for it is. Oh wait we do in a sense: there was no plan. Nobody had any clue what to do with it, Nintendo themselves said they had no plan for how to use it. I like Nintendo and they often release products that seem confusing at first but then show off what it can be used for with tech demo games or creative imagery. The Vitality Sensor received no such treatment and ultimately led to the product being discontinued. Not every idea is a winner and luckily it came from a company that has so much money in the bank that experiments can fail and not hinder the company, nonetheless it seems odd nobody at the design table saw what was wrong with a product with no purpose in mind short of “we haven’t tried this“.

Blood Sport Kickstarter.


So apparently someone thought the stakes in competitive gaming weren’t enough with millions of dollars up for grabs in some of the more recent MOBA tournaments and decided not only to expand with this stray thought but go to Kickstarter for funding. The premise is this: you will be hooked up to a machine that will take blood from you whenever your in-game character takes damage. The reason behind all this is to get gamers thinking about the important issues like blood donating. Okay so a noble cause is present, not much of a change in view but at least I know this comes from somewhat decent intentions rather than just chucking something to the wall to see what sticks. Low and behold, the project got suspended on Kickstarter and they are looking into the reason. oh I can’t imagine any reason why drawing blood when playing games could be a bad idea, so I’m not going to even touch that behemoth. More importantly is I want to ask why this is the fantastic idea that gets people into things like donating blood. Should I start up a Kickstarter advertising a game that whenever you lose a life you must donate a sum of money to a random charity? How about a gender equality Kickstarter that punishes you for not running over enough men as opposed to women in your sandbox game? I’m sure I could spend all day mustering up ludicrous means to raise awareness and start up events that involve charity and gaming. There are much better means to get people into charity through gaming that already exist, what plans they had for this device seem to be outmatched by every other normal persons mindset to gaming and charity, at least they can happily say that had an idea nobody else had tried.

Nevermind Kickstarter.


So this idea is possibly the more positive of the three but it certainly has some glaring issues that I imagine will come to light the moment people get a hold of it. The idea of this is it is a horror game that gets harder based on player stress levels, indicated by biometric feedback, be it your heart rate or blood pressure or what have you. The purpose of the game is to learn how to cope with stress and learn to control and overcome fear. Okay, an interesting concept and meaningful purpose to the endeavour, yet there are some glaring issues with the idea and the nature of biometrics affecting gameplay. Firstly, forcing people to calm down when they clearly can’t or be pushed even further into panic is the absolute worst idea I’ve ever heard. Panic attacks, people with irrational fears or even fears that are perfectly justified are not overcome by shoving people down a slippery slope that gets steeper the further you fall. Even if it might work for some, it won’t work for others. Secondly, what about people who are just high tension or are subject to things outside of gaming? I am a very calm person myself but my heart rate can jump very quickly, even when it isn’t fear but surprise. So what the game just got harder because of something out of my actual control? That brings up another thing, do they expect people to only play in controlled environments? I could be easily affected by things outside the game that ruin the gaming experience, biometrics in games are something I’ve always had issue with for that very reason: life exists outside me in a room holding a controller, my gaming experience shouldn’t be reflective of my personal life. All in all I expect people won’t get a lot from the final game but something novel, I’d like to be proved wrong but I’m failing to see how they are going to get past the simple issues I find with it. Who knows, only time will tell.

So that was 3 different ways people tried to make a change or a new approach to gaming with technology that just doesn’t seem to mesh well, at least in its current form. There seems to be this strong desire to make gaming a more physical experience especially with things like virtual reality getting a strong push recently. I don’t get it myself, never did I pick up a controller and wish I felt the pain of each strike, nor have to swing for each strike, run for each step and so on. Virtual reality has some interesting potential I will gladly try for myself, however I will always feel comfortable with a controller and hold to it strongly, you ever seen what the protagonists in our games do? Goddamn, I got a sore wrist playing Skyward Sword and tennis elbow playing Wii Sports, it is definitely different I’ll give them that. Better in some sense? Perhaps not, some of the best games on the Wii were controller games with only the greatest titles using motion control well. The correct way to use it by the way? Sparingly.

Oh, I broke 100 followers and it only took…..30 days or so. Eh, not bad, not sure if that is good or not but its a nice number to see. Anyway, what are your experiences of new ideas that just seem to exist “because new”? Do you think any of the ideas listed in this post had or have potential successfully? What do you see in the future of virtual reality and “full game immersion” that once filled fiction as a viable possibility in the future? Thanks for the read and I’ll see you later.


, , , , , , , , , ,

  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: