Skin Games: Fragrant Play, Scented Media and the Stench of Digital Games

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Skin Games: Fragrant Play, Scented Media and the Stench of Digital Games

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Publication Article, peer reviewed scientific
Title Skin Games: Fragrant Play, Scented Media and the Stench of Digital Games
Author(s) Niedenthal, Simon
Date 2012
English abstract
This study presents an argument in favor of using multiple theory triangulation (Mäyrä 2009) as a means of generating design heuristics and gameplay themes for engaging the sense of smell in games. The disciplines that are drawn upon include sensory psychology, sensory anthropology, literature, interaction design research and game studies. The physical and historical context of smell in games is sketched by considering the challenges of designing for the sense of smell, examining how different cultures have integrated smell into their lives and entertainment, analyzing the failures of scented filmic media, and surveying games in which smell has played a role: Leather Goddesses of Phobos (Infocom Inc. 1986), Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail! (Sierra On-Line Inc. 1996) and the Nordic live-action roleplaying game Dragonbane (Koljonen, Kuustie and Multamäki 2006). Rather than naïve immersion, in which smell merely confirms what is seen onscreen, this study seeks to root the future development of scented gameplay in Ermi and Mäyrä’s sensory, challenge-based and imaginative (SCI) model of immersion (2007), and draws upon design discourses related to the bodily and spatial uses of scent: perfume and incense. We can learn about how to effectively engage smell in games by examining the ways in which people have organized play around perfume and incense, from games that incorporate perfume themes (ranging from board games to Axe cologne advergames), to the playful behaviors of an online fragrance community ( The results of this study include a provisional design heuristics for smell in games, as well as specific gameplay themes: Sillage: longing for the absent, Skin games: scent and intimacy and Abuse, power and transgression.
Publisher Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab
Host/Issue Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture;1
Volume 6
ISSN 1866-6124
Pages 1-31
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) Game design
Media design
Scented media
Humanities/Social Sciences
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