Sunday, October 2, 2011

Descent: Sickness at the Keyboard

Ages ago, when I got my iMac, I received a bunch of free games with it.  One of those games was the 1995, nausea-inducing Descent.  It was the first and only game that made me motion sick the first couple of times I played it.

For those who don't know, Descent is a standard first-person shooter.  Instead of a Nazi hunter or marine, you are a pilot in a spaceship.  Typically in a first-person shooter you walk through halls or through tunnels.  In this game, however, you have total freedom of movement in zero gravity.  Six degrees of movement actually, just as if you were flying a plane.

In flight simulation games you have similar movement, and it rarely causes motion sickness.  A great portion of this game (if not the entire thing -- it has been years since I've played) takes place in mines, which means there is a "correct" up and a "correct" down.  Instead of "walking" through the mines, you are "flying" through them, complete with barrel rolls, flips -- you name it.  When critics who first reviewed the game complained about how sick it made you, they weren't kidding.  They were entirely correct.

It took several go-arounds with this game before I got used to it.  I never actually suffer from motion sickness from first-person shooters or movies filmed with handheld cameras like The Blair Witch Project.  Nor does being a passenger in a car make me motion sick.  This game, however, kicked my ass.  And a lot of other people's, too.  Did that make it a bad game.  Nope.  If anything, it made it a bit more realistic.  I would expect to have the same feelings of dizziness and wanting to vomit if I really were flying a spaceship through mine tunnels at incredible speeds while doing defensive maneuvers ... at least for the first couple of times. 

If the game had sucked, I would've stopped playing then and there, but it was actually a good game.  It was unlike anything I had played up until that time, and it had plenty of action.  Blowing up spaceships was nowhere near as satisfying as pulling off a headshot to an enemy, but then again you can't fly upside down through the air to do that, either.  

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