ConceptArt.org has regular weeklong competitions in which participants create concept art in various categories--characters, environments, and so forth. Last week I tried my hand at 'Industrial Design of the Week', in which the prompt was to design a game console for 50 years in the future.
I started by thinking of game consoles today, and in what ways there was room for improvement. Right now, video games appeal to strictly 2 or 3 senses; we see visuals on the screen, we hear audio feedback, and you could even argue that touch based devices (DS, iPad, iPhone, etc.) provide a sensory experience separate from the other 2. I imagined companies 50 years down the road racing to develop hardware and software to fill in the 2 blanks--consoles and titles that appeal to smell and taste.
The 'Gamut' console system basically would be a large home console to be installed within a spacious living area. It includes its own screen, speakers, and control panels on the table-like platform on the front. The table has built in vents to release various scents from beneath the player, triggered by in-game cues. I imagine it being useful for games like Call of Duty where the scent of smoke could really enhance the immersion of being in a specific environment, like a warzone.
As far as taste, the controller would have a sensor on the edge that receives wireless signals from the console, altering the taste of the strip. It might actually be awkward trying to taste your controller in the middle of a game, but I had a hard time imagining what taste-based gaming technology would even look like. Probably not a good idea to share controllers afterwards, either.
It was a fun contest and it forced me to concept something fairly complex in a short amount of time. If anything, it got me thinking about what kind of consoles we have to look forward to. Games are truly unique media, incorporating various art forms already (illustration, literature, animation, music, sculpture, etc.). I wonder if games will evolve into some kind of super art experience that encompasses all others. And if so, what kind of effect it would have on entertainment as a whole. Why eat actual food when you can savor the same experience from a video game, without gaining a pound, or consuming all of that sodium? We might be able to focus on eating healthier foods in real life, and resorting to games to experience the alluring taste of those not-so-healthy foods. Or maybe we'll become so engrossed in the fantastical digital experience that we begin to feel that real life is inferior. I look forward to the day when someone develops that smell/taste game technology that works, but I also wonder about getting to the point where we're trying to make games do too many things at once.