Mirror’s Edge – Gaming with proprioception

I should really make a list of all the games that would be terrific to play in Immersive VR..

Along with Assassin’s Creed vastness and beautiful graphics, Gears of War 2 with its violence and majestic landscapes, the latest game by the swedish editor Dice, Mirror’s Edge, would be a great way to feel freedom and wind on your face as you jump buildings :

This Wired review explains why the game feels so immersive:

It doesn’t do justice to call the action in Mirror’s Edge “intense”: It quivers, like a hummingbird, and your first-person view is constantly whipsawing like a paranoid cameraman hunting for the best shot. (…) What makes Mirror’s Edge so different? Sure, the action is swoopy and vertiginous, just as it is in many other games. (…)  Why does this game get its hooks into my brain so effectively? Why does it feel so much more visceral?

I think it’s because Mirror’s Edge is the first game to hack your proprioception.

That’s a fancy word for your body’s sense of its own physicality — its “map” of itself. Proprioception is how you know where your various body parts are — and what they’re doing — even when you’re not looking at them. It’s why you can pass a baseball from one hand to another behind your back; it’s how you can climb stairs without looking down at your feet.

Most first-person shooters do not create any sense of proprioception. You may be looking out the eyes of your character, but you don’t have a good sense of the dimensions of the rest of your virtual body — the size and stride of your legs, the radius of your arms. At most, you can see your arms carrying your rifle out in front of you. But otherwise, the designers treat your body as if it were just a big, refrigerator-size box.(…)

When you run, you see your hands pumping up and down in front of you. When you jump, your feet briefly jut up into eyeshot — precisely as they do when you’re vaulting over a hurdle in real life. And when you tuck down into a somersault, you’re looking at your thighs as the world spins around you. (…)

The upshot is that these small, subtle visual cues have one big and potent side effect: They trigger your sense of proprioception. It’s why you feel so much more “inside” the avatar here than in any other first-person game. And it explains, I think, why Mirror’s Edge is so curiously likely to produce motion sickness. The game is not merely graphically realistic; it’s neurologically realistic [Cb: I’d like to have a neurologists opinion on that!].  (…)

It’s an interesting lesson of game physics: When you feel like you’re truly inside your character, speed suddenly means something.

The opposite is also true. Without a sense of physicality, speed feels lifeless. In Halo, you’re playing as the cyborgically enhanced Master Chief, so your top speed at an open run is — according to Halo nerd canon — 30 mph or something. But it doesn’t feel very fast at all, because your avatar doesn’t appear to be actually exerting himself.(…)

The combat in Mirror’s Edge felt more believable than doing battle in Halo, too. When the cops were shooting bullets at me and I was frantically racing to escape, I kept thinking: “Damn, I’m going so fast I might just escape!” In most first-person games, I usually wonder the opposite: How are these guys not hitting me? So the brilliant physicality of Mirror’s Edge isn’t just a boon to the game’s physics. It also makes the narrative and drama more plausible.

So you feel like you’re the character, this means more presence, so more immersion.  I have to talk to them.. Sweden is not so far from Paris and I guess I’d take less time to go to Stockholm than to go to Velizy =)

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  1. To talk about immersion, not only those proprioception details are important, but also the sound effects.

    In this game, you can hear your own breath, or pain. When the character is exhausted, you feel exhausted. This kind of detail adds a lot to immersion, even if we don’t notice them.

  2. You’re totally right!
    It’s really as if you were inside the avatar, you get the same visual and auditory feedback. Then the brain must think “oh then I must be doing this!”

  3. I’m affraid of the motion sickness that would be created inside a VE like a CAVE for example…
    Btw, If you manage to come back from Sweden with the source code, let me know and be assured that the door of the SAS3 are always open for you my dear cb 😉

  4. VR does not automatically equate to Motion sickness like many believe. Motion sickness arises when there is a conflict between information provided by our senses. A real roller coaster will induce as much motion sickness as some VR experiences.

    The key in motion sickness free VR is to ensure that, as the user moves and interacts, this does not induce conflicts. Lag (i.e., latency) is one of many such motion sickness sources. Another is to not be in control of your movements (ever felt sick as a passenger in a moving car?).

    I agree with CB on the general idea here… immersive gamming will be a major shift in the way entertainment is experienced. The key thing is to tell when this will occur.

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