GCG Feature: 'Phantom Fingers, Half-Life, & Half-Life 2'

Both Half-Life and Half-Life 2 toy with the concept of how people interact with the world, giving them, the player, tools with which to bang about the world, which keeps everyone from touching it directly -- for a time.

In a new feature article from, writer Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh questions what this means and its relevance to games in general.

In this excerpt, Waugh examines the concept of what he calls "phantom fingers" in games:

"Imagine for a moment that we had no bodies and therefore no sense of touch. Or imagine that everything we touched had the potential to hurt us. How would we engage our environments? The answer would probably be through some form of man-made sonar.

There we have video games, in a nutshell. From Spacewar! to Pong to Breakout to Space Invaders to Doom to Rez to Everyday Shooter, video games are obsessed with resolving the gap between the player and the game world, and the simplest solution is to use a phantom finger. Since the player's experience is disembodied, the game treats him as at a distance, like tossing a stone into a well to gauge the water's level based on the sound of the stone's plop."

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