Games come in all shapes, sizes, formats and age restrictions, but almost every single one has the same tool in common: hands. They hold controllers, flick switches, move mice, press buttons and tear hair out when it all goes to pot. You might argue that in fact the most used tool of a gamer is the brain; a fair point, I’ll concede. However, I’d argue that for the most part whilst you see with your eyes, hear with your ears, think with your brain etc – they all feed that information into actions carried out by the hands.
There are obvious exceptions; Kinect and to a certain extent Wii and Playstation Move remotes employ the whole body, and that strange new game where it measures the electrical activity of the brain and translates that into movement are all examples of such. But for the most part if you want to play a game, you’re going to need to use your hands.
I find it odd, then, that the one thing the hands do best – touch – is a sense which hasn’t really got past the “rumble pack” stage it was at about two decades ago. We have the capacity for such vast experiences through feeling something with our skin. We can tell shape, texture, viscosity, weight, movement and relative force. Thermoception (temperature), equilibrioception (balance) and even nociception (pain) are all wondrous functions which our body permits us to use and yet they are largely (with the exception of balance and the Wii fit system) unexplored in game design.
Of course, it’s an area which would have to be explored delicately. We don’t want developers shocking 12 year olds with 40000 volts, recreating the feeling of being shot in the gut by a high powered 50 cal sniper rifle etc. Furthermore, the ability to replicate the warmth, texture and movement of human skin would have many… *cough* sordid… connotations.