The Day You Discard Your Body
Chapter 7 - The problem with video games
by Marshall Brain


The big problem with today's video games is the human interface to the game. Today's video games use:
  • A TV screen to display moving images from the game
  • A set of speakers to create the game sounds
  • A video game controller to allow the player to move around inside the game
This arrangement seems completely normal to us right now because that is what everyone uses. But if you step back and think about it, you realize that it would be nearly impossible to design a more unnatural interface for a human being to use when playing a video game. And with this technology, you will never be able to "live" inside a game.

Consider how you experience the physical world around you with your biological human body. For example, you walk into your kitchen and find a can of soup. You open it. Inside the can is soup that has a unique smell, taste and texture. You can pour the soup out of the can and into a bowl. You can heat the bowl in a microwave oven and it will actually get warmer. Then you can eat the soup. It will make your stomach feel full. That is how reality works. Video games, obviously, are nowhere close to that right now. The distance between today's video games and reality is immense because the technology we use as our sensory interface to the game is so limiting. We have no way for a video game to create sensations of smell, taste, weight or warmth. And there certainly is no way for your stomach to feel full.

You can also see the chasm between video games and reality by looking at the way that video games make use of your sensory systems. Take, for example, your vision system. When you look at the objects in your home, you see them at extremely high resolution. Your eyes have 120 million black and white sensors on each retina along with 5 million color sensors. For comparison, a typical TV today displays about 200,000 total pixels. Even the best high-def TV can display only two million pixels. And neither a TV nor a HDTV does anything to activate your peripheral vision system.

Imagine the experience you have when you ride a real roller coaster in terms of sights, sounds, motion, wind, touch. A video game experience of a roller coaster is pathetic compared to the real experience. Current video games can only activate your eyes and ears.

The fact is that, despite their photo-realistic imagery, video games currently do a poor job at emulating reality. The reason why video games are so poor at emulating reality is because the technology that we use is so limiting. With a TV and some speakers you simply cannot create a realistic experience. And chances are that the technology we use today will never activate smell or taste, and it certainly will not simulate wind, pleasure, pain or the feeling of a full stomach. We need a completely new technology for interfacing to our video games in order to do that. As we saw in the last chapter, video games are popular enough that they will drive that new technology.

The Controller

photo by Amazon
It is in the video game controller where we find the biggest problems with the video game experience. Think about how naturally you walk in the physical world. You stand up, balance and think about walking forward. Hundreds of muscles respond to your desire in an entirely effortless fashion. You move forward in a way that is smooth, graceful, natural and almost completely unconscious. If you need to step over or around an object, you do it without thought. Climbing stairs is easy. Changing from a walk to a jog to a sprint is trivial.

Now, compare your real-world experience of walking to the video game experience. If you want to walk forward in a video game, using today's video game controllers, what do you do? You use your thumb. Forget the hundreds of muscles in your body that are programmed for walking -- you use none of them when playing today's video games. What if you want to aim your gun? You use your thumb. Want to look over your shoulder? You use your thumb. Want to jump? Thumb. Crouch? Thumb. Climb a ladder? Thumb. And so on.

There are over 600 different muscles in your body to control things like your arms, your legs, your fingers and your facial expressions. Your brain can control all of those muscle groups unconsciously and simultaneously. But in a video game, you don't get to control 600 muscle groups in your character in a natural way. Instead, nearly everything is routed through your thumbs to the character. This means that every video game seen today is an incredibly limiting experience.

The limitations imposed on us by today's video games are most obvious if you simply think about your normal life. In real life you walk into a room and visually scan it by moving both your head and your eyeballs. To do that you unconsciously use dozens of precise muscle groups. And you can do that scanning while you walk forward, talk to a friend and make facial expressions appropriate to the conversation. You can process the facial expressions that your friend is making by shifting your gaze rapidly between your friend's face and the environment you are navigating. And you can be carrying something in your hands as well. You might even be chewing gum. You are using hundreds of muscles simultaneously and they are all beautifully coordinated.

In a video game, there is no possible way to visually scan the room with the fluidity you do in real life. In a video game you have to do the scanning with one thumb rather than a dozen precise muscle groups. In a video game you usually cannot talk. You cannot make facial expressions. You cannot see facial expressions. You can carry something in your hand, sort of, but you cannot feel it or manipulate it in any way. Today's video games are just pathetic when you compare them to real life.

The goal: Immersion

In their dreams of the perfect video game, people do not want to be using video game controllers and TV screens. People want to be IMMERSED in video games. They want to live inside of them, using all 600 muscle groups and receiving input from all human sensors simultaneously and effortlessly. They want to experience not just vision, smell, taste, touch and sound, but also things like muscle position, balance, pain and pleasure.

In other words, people want to experience video games in the same way that they experience the real world. They want the same resolution and the same sensations that the real world provides.

Vertebrane is the system that will make that possible. Vertebrane will tap into all of the brain's in-going and out-going nerve signals and offer a fully-immersive video game experience. With Vertebrane, people will be able to realistically interact with artificial game environments and scenarios. This immersive experience will drive millions of gamers to install Vertebrane systems in their bodies as soon as Vertebrane becomes available.

<<< Go to Chapter 6     |     Intro     |     Go to Chapter 8 >>>

Table of Contents

About the Author

See Also

How to make a million dollars

The Teenager's Guide
to the Real World

by Marshall Brain
(20 free chapters online)

Making money with web sites

Robotic Nation

Manna

Thank you for visiting today,

© Copyright 2005 by Marshall Brain. All rights reserved.