Proprioception


Mind Hack blog (here) led me to a review of the video game Mirror’s Edge by Clive Thompson (here). What he discusses is what he calls a proprioception hack. Proprioception is the sense of where your body is in space and this game appears to pull consciousness into the action.

 

Clive Thompson’s description of playing the game:

“The hot new videogame is a sort of “first-person runner”: You’re a courier who travels across the rooftops of a locked-down, police-state city, delivering black-market messages by using acrobatic feats of parkour. You’re constantly leaping over gaps 40 stories in the air, tightrope-walking along suspended pipes and vaulting up walls like a ninja….

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….

Indeed, the sense of physicality is so vivid that, for me anyway, the most exhilarating part of the game wasn’t the obvious stuff, like leaping from rooftop to rooftop. No, I mostly got a blast from the mere act of running around. I’ve never played a game that conveyed so beautifully the athletically kinetic joys of sprinting — of jetting down alleyways, racing along rooftops and taking corners like an Olympian. It’s an interesting lesson of game physics: When you feel like you’re truly inside your character, speed suddenly means something.”

 

Vaughan gives some explanation:

“In other words, it remaps your body schema so that you feel more fully that you are the character in the game. When your character runs fast, you feel it is you running fast. When your character jumps across between two buildings and looks down, you feel a moment of sickening vertigo… Perhaps what this is because when we automatise an action such as a run, a jump or a roll part of the process of making it automatic is losing the experience of the component parts. So, when a computer game feels like real, it is because real feels like nothing — we just ask our brains ‘jump’ and the motor system sorts out the details without our any deep experience of how the jump is performed.”

 

This game shows that our conscious experience of action amounts to the elaboration of the combination of an intent and sensory feedback with the correct timing.

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