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volume 1, issue 10

Today in loonygames:

New!! The Archives have been cleaned up, fead links fixed, and printable versions restored! Also, don't miss the new comments on the front page!

Livin' With The Sims: theAntiELVIS explores the wild and wacky world that is Will Wright's The Sims, asking the inevitable quesiton, "is The Sims the first step toward a virtual life where everyone is Swedish?"

Pixel Obscura: Josh Vasquez on Omikron: The Nomad Soul.

Real Life: Check out our newest comic strip, Real Life! Updated daily!

User Friendly: Updated daily!

Related Links:

Are You Sick of Games?:Our first article on the subject, by Jeff Solomon.

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Still Sick of Games!

By Jeff "nonick" Solomon

While advancing technology will most likely be able to reduce the occurrence of gaming sickness and injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, Sam Winzar brought up a very interesting point about the potential for technology to create new problems.

Sam mentions the possibility that as games become increasingly realistic, we will begin to revolt against the content that new technology brings to gaming. Sam writes:

...there is another type of sickness that I think may be a problem in future games. That type of sickness is just plain 'that's sick!' sickness! ...what if, in a couple of years, we'll be able to create opponents that look exactly like humans, and the blood looks completely real, add some VR headset to that, 3D sound and you've got a very realistic experience! My question is, do we really want to play this??

That's an excellent question. So far, even the most realistic video games cannot be mistaken for real life. They're cartoonish and designed to portray an escapist representation of our world (or other worlds). It won't be long, however, before the technology will exist to play a game like Quake that looks almost completely real.

Consider the arcade game House of the Dead. The game presented very realistic depictions of people and then allowed the player to shoot and mutilate them. While the game was popular and accumulated a cult following, it also raised some serious issues about the level of realism that people are willing to tolerate in a violent video game. We've got Mario kicking turtle shells on one end of the spectrum, and, down the road, a realistic 3D world where we walk out of our offices and mutilate our bosses. Perhaps this example doesn't effectively drive home the horror that this situation might impose (it actually sounds a tad refreshing), but it will certainly attract attention in the future, and controversy is sure to develop around the issue.

Ryan Layfield wrote in with a similar dilemma:

Will it ever get to the point where people won't be able to tell the difference between reality and its virtual counterpart? What happens when you get done playing a realistic driving game, drive off a cliff in the game, come back, hop in your real car, drive off the cliff, and realize halfway down you aren't in the game anymore?!? Or maybe you just played a game where you shot someone resembling your friend, and suddenly it dawns on you that you took the VR headset off hours ago??? Believe me, I'm not BSing about this prob. This is a real concern to me. Technology's awesome to play with, but I foresee much abuse of its power in the near future...

While this might sound like an extreme example, Ryan's concern certainly has merit. As technology advances to the point where reality can be recreated realistically, several important issues begin to surface. What is reality? How can reality be altered, and what implications will this have on our daily lives? We're already seeing signs of this in the movie world, where James Cameron has publicly stated that he expects to be able to digitally reproduce actors to star in movies in the not-to-distant future.

Finally, Ari Steinberg wrote in with an idea that brings us full circle and wraps this whole topic of gaming sickness up in a ironic dose of poetic justice. He writes:

Wouldn't it be possible that if games got too realistic, than instead of simulator sickness, motion sickness would be more of a problem? If in reality, someone were to run as fast as the Quake marine and constantly be dodging rockets and doing all kinds of other crazy things (i.e. rocket jumping), it's pretty safe to assume that they'd get motion sickness (of course, they'd be dead, but that's besides the point). Wouldn't something so close to reality that our bodies think it is real also cause the same problem?

Considering that futuristic gaming hardware will be able to almost literally place us the worlds of the games that we play, this could eventually become a real dilemma. It is interesting to consider that we have already reached a point where we can create simulated environments that fool our bodies well enough to make them react against them. As we move forward, we will find that we have new questions to ask ourselves, new problems to face, and new forms of entertainment to experience. The "virtual" in virtual reality will take on a more subtle meaning.

I'd like to thank everyone who responded to my original article, and in the process helped to clarify the issue of gaming sickness and explore other topics that relate to our reactions to the games that we play. There were many responses that I couldn't include in this article because of its length, but every comment I received is very much appreciated, and I look forward to hearing from everyone who takes the time to respond to this one.

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Credits: Illustration © 1998 Mike Sanzone. Still Sick of Games is © 1998 Jeff Solomon. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it...it can totally make you (or us, for that matter) sick.