(Some) iPhone gaming makes me sick

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Back in the day when I piloted Macworld’s Game Room column, I’d occasionally extol the virtues of one 3-D shooter or another and then, within the requisite 24-hour hours, receive the expected batch of “these games make me ill” responses. These came not in the form of objection to the games’ gratuitous violence, but rather to their motion. Some people simply couldn’t play the things without becoming nauseated due to the way the visuals careened about.

While I tried to be sympathetic, secretly I thought these people feeble. I mean, come on, a little X- and Y-plane monitor twisting is enough to upset your delicate tum-tum?


If weaklings they be, after yesterday’s WWDC keynote adventure, I’m ready to include myself among their number. While standing in the Developer’s line an acquaintance of mine took the time to whip out his iPhone and show me a racing game his company was working on. The graphics were glorious, the accelerometer controls were extremely responsive, and the results, in my case, were absolutely nauseating.

After playing with the thing for just a couple of minutes I had to hand it back and stare at the horizon for a minute. Unlike with a computer-based shooter, where the horizon was largely stationary as is my body, this iPhone racing game is more immersive as you shift your hands (and ultimately your body) in response to the position of the vehicle and the orientation of the horizon. If you’re of a Certain Age, you recognize the syndrome as similar to watching the surround-movie at Disneyland. When the plane in that movie banks sharply to the left, the audience nearly falls over because people tend to orient themselves (and, I suppose, their inner-ear) to the horizon.

While I’m sure the three hours of sleep under my belt (and its quart-of-coffee antidote) amplified my reaction, I can’t help but think that these sorts of motion-centric iPhone games will create an entirely new class of weaklings as well as, perhaps more interesting, introduce an “iPhone Sea-legs Syndrome” among avid iPhone gamers—one where those who’ve immersed themselves in these things for hours will follow their playtime by drunkenly stumbling about in a real world whose horizon stubbornly stays where its creator intended.

Now that would be entertaining.

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