2011 In Games: Child of Eden And Feedback

While game news is light, and we’re reminiscing on a gaming year gone by, I thought I’d take the time to write about the games that defined my year. They weren’t necessarily classics — some I absolutely hated, some I fell head over heels for, but they’re all worth discussing. Today I’m taking a look at Child of Eden.

As gamers I think we tend to take visual feedback for granted. It makes sense — gaming is a largely visual medium. But when games focus their attention on aural feedback, and reward us with a gorgeous soundscape of our own making, it strikes a different set of chords within our brain. It affects us on a different level.

Plenty of games showcase this. Recently I’ve been playing Skyward Sword — as you combo sword strikes a note trumpets, each horn a note higher than the one before it. It’s subtle, but tangible. More than any kind of visual feedback, it motivates us and rewards players for playing well. Often it’s the rewards we’re barely aware of that give us enjoyment on a deeper level — particularly with video games.

I knew I would love Child of Eden, despite the fact I had never played a Mizuguchi game before. I skipped both Rez and Lumines for some ungodly reason, but the idea of manipulating sounds, through the Kinect controller, with my bare hands, was completely alluring to me.

You barely have any real control of the sounds you are making, but the fact that your constant prodding at Child of Eden’s world is rewarded with this symphony of sound and abstract visuals is enough. It’s more than enough. It inspires a real sense of wonder.

All video games reward you with feedback. That’s how they work. The First Person Shooter, I think, is more dependent on this than any other genre: it must feel fun and rewarding to shoot a gun, it must feel fun and rewarding to shoot your enemy. The second to second reward for the interactions you make in the world must be immediately tangible and interesting. Most shooters achieve this via a combination of visuals and sound.

But none came close to Child of Eden in that respect. Everything you attempt in Child of Eden yields some sort of feedback, the kind of feedback that properly connects you with something, even if you can barely comprehend what that ‘something’ is.

It’s hard to explain why, but Child of Eden is all the more powerful because it’s so abstract. Earlier this year creator Mizuguchi told me Child of Eden was like “walking into a field of fresh snow… a new sense of wonder”. I can relate to that. Shooters, for better or worse, must remain rooted in the world we exist in, but Child of Eden has license to expand far beyond that reach, and that’s why it’s so powerful. With Child of Eden we are anchored solely to the game itself, minus any frame of reference. All we have is the feedback we’re given, the visuals, the sounds, and our own hands waving around wildly trying to gain some semblance of control.

All we have in Child of Eden is feedback we’re given, and that is more than enough.

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