Why Won’t Mirror’s Edge Make Me Vomit? I Wanna Be Sick Too.

25 11 2008

After reading the mostly stellar reviews of Mirror’s Edge, I was intrigued by a unique theme popping up around the interwebs.  Something about ME was different – and people were getting sick because of it.  It was not the seisure-inducing  flashing epilepsy lights associated with anime of years past.  No, this was something different, affecting videogame reviewers and bloggers with remorseless consistency. Although fimiliar, something in the game’s first-person perspective was screwing with people’s sense of self.

The subtle but distinct visual style of ME, which adopts the  conventions of FPS games, now includes seeing your limbs onscreen.  Seen mostly in glimpses while jumping, sprinting and rolling, but nonetheless ever-present, these limbs of yours convey far more information than the static gun-in-hand perspective seen in almost every previous first person game.

Until recently most games dealt with embodiment issues by largely ignoring them. Subtleties, such as a player’s sense of self, were secondary to game-play mechanics, therefore most first and third-person characters usually have the agility of a Roomba – able to navigate a proscribed area with ease, but stumped by a seemingly innocuous curb or pile of rubble.

Over the years, and especially in the recent console generation, the sense of embodiment and locomotion have been addressed by a number of games with great success.  Assassin’s Creed and  Crackdown both left me with a new perspective on architecture, feeling like I could ably scale any building in RL (currently untested).  But these games are played from the third person perspective.  Mirror’s Edge offers similar locomotive freedom, but seen from the first person perspective – from the eyes of your character, Faith.

When combined with the frantic rooftop chases, dizzying heights and leaps of faith (clever, or coincidence?) the unique visual perspective creates one of the most intense and visceral game experiences in a long time.  So intense that many reviewers focus on the nausea, vertigo and yes, even vomiting.

*It’s worth noting briefly that I have a fair amount of experience with issues of video games, embodiment and identity, having just received an MFA in conceptual art with a thesis  titled “The Emergence of the Mediasapien.”

So down I sit with Mirror’s Edge, ready for the salivating, the queasiness, the vertigo.  In short – ready for an EXPERIENCE.  I turned down the lights, cranked up the audio, sat a little too close to the 36″ LCD and played the shit out of that game.  I partied too hard, ate too much junk food – anything to give an edge to the sickness.  But it never came.  I played and played, but never got sick, never threw up. Never even burped.

What a letdown.  Here I was, a game-thrill otaku playing what is arguably a paradigm-shifting title, doing everything short of downing Mentos and Diet Coke trying to experience the bleeding edge of digital embodiment.  And yet here I am, with a bout of rock-solid intestinal fortitude not seen since the Counterstrike era.  What gives?  Was I trying too hard?  Am I too game savvy, too experienced in the ways of the pixel?  Did that childhood problem with my inner ear leave me immune to dizzy spells? I don’t know.  I only know that this game, while great in every other way, simply won’t make me sick.





Avatar Builder Tools – An Online Round-up

31 07 2008

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I just came across this great collection of online websites, games and virtual worlds which offer avatar creation tools.  There is a wide range of styles, from ultra cute 2D anime characters to realistic 3D renders.  Plus you can see how you’d look in South Park or Springfield.  Have fun. Send me a pic if you create something interesting.

Avatar Tools

Face Gen Sample image