Enhanced Duelling Artefact, 2001
For contemporary game designers, the Holy Grail of gaming is to create compelling experiences that bridge both the on-screen world and the real world. Now /////////fur//// may have started a trend in convergent media with the game PainStation, a two-person console that dishes out physical pain to unsuccessful players. Avoiding the obvious references to unusual sexual practices, we prefer to describe PainStation as “a contemporary duelling system”.
PainStation comprises a box structure housing a horizontal screen over which the two players face each other. The software is based on Pong, an early computer game. Players use their right hands to control a bat on screen, and must keep their left hand on the console’s “pain execution unit”. Removing your hand means breaking the circuit – game over. During play, if your screen bat misses a ball, your left hand suffers the consequences through the application of heat, electric shocks or a quick whipping on the back of your hand. “It’s amazing how players get engrossed in the game to avoid being hurt”, says Reiff, “and how audiences behave. The combination of the PainStation’s sound effects, the behaviour of the players and onlookers makes the game an experience for the audience as much as the players.”
Many players have ended up with red, bruised hands – although not for long.
The PainStation marks out a new territory in convergent media and may well inspire the games industry to further innovations. En garde!