It is documented that animals have play behavior, but it is only Humans that play games. In order for all animals to play they do so through their range of senses. There are the obvious ones such as sight, hearing, and touch but there are some that are more subtle or so powerful we tend not to think of them.
Using ancient Buddhist psychology’s insight into the human condition, I thought it would be useful to evaluate how this list of senses interacts with games.
What follows is a list of seven senses that most human beings have. I will describe each one and then list how it relates to games.
(I) Seeing through our Eyes
This is the primary sense used when it comes to games. A video or computer game cannot be played unless it can be seen since all games are played on some kind of screen with projected images. I can think of one rare exception, but in this case the exception does not make the rule.
(II) Hearing through our Ears
The secondary sense used when it comes to games. Some of the earliest games (played on main frame and personal computers) did not have sound. The sound heard in a game provides an added dimension to a game’s aesthetic experience.
(III) Touch through our Body and Nervous System
Unlike other media, games are unique in requiring a nervous system and body to engage with it. If there is no need for an interaction through our body’s use of a game’s control and our nervous system’s ability to respond, then there is no game.
(IV & V) Smell through our Nose detecting odors & Taste through our Tongue detecting flavors
Until such time that we develop Smell-o-rama or Taste-o-rama, this set of senses is primarily used for consuming Mountain Dew and Nachos. So while not essential to playing game, these senses are pretty central to gaming culture (and just about everything else).
(VI) Detecting and understanding Concepts and Patterns through our Awareness
Awareness is influenced by our thought capacity, biases, and education. Our ability to appreciate a game’s aesthetics, solve a game’s challenge, and develop gaming skills is based purely on Awareness.
(VII) Receiving Social Feedback through our Speech
Speech is not essential to all games. Including speech as a sense may appear odd, but speech is the human equivalent to a bat’s sonar radar. We speak to get a response and these guide us accordingly based on our agenda, etc. In games where we play with others, speech and other kinds of communication are critical. There are a few games where commands are spoken to control the game making the voice a controller.
In summarizing our senses, it becomes apparent that humanity as a species is uniquely tuned in to understand, play, and build games. All animals may have vision, hearing, taste, smell, touch, but they lack the higher awareness of symbolism that is critical to understanding games.
In my next blog post, I will outline the passive and active senses that are used by players when they are engaging with a game.