Most computer games are designed so that players are kept at a safe distance from each other. This is in part due to technological limitations of controllers and sensing devices. For example, the Microsoft Kinect relies on players not being too close or occluding each other in order to correctly sense their bodies. This paper describes two games in which players are deliberately encouraged to come close to and touch the other player.
Touch between people is a key way in which we communicate socially, from the early bonds developed by caring touch between parent and child, to the many adult uses of touch to communicate friendship, sexual attraction, violent aggression or physical competition. Touch is also a part of many sports and games, such as rugby, martial arts and Twister. In children vigorous physical contact play serves both long-term developmental functions (cognition, emotional coding, fighting skills) plus more immediate functions (strength and endurance training, social dominance functions).
However, whilst interpersonal touch is part of many social activities it is largely absent from computer gaming. In this project, we aim to explore what happens if games encourage or detect direct touch between players. We have built and deployed a series of multiplayer games to explore this.
The attached workshop paper PDF describes this project in more detail.