Role of Smell and Taste in Games

Matt Barton's picture

I was just thinking that gaming is the most sensual of all forms of all creative expressions save tribal dancing. It incorporates sight, sound, and touch. Tribal dancing and mystical ceremonies, of course, incorporates smell (burning torches, incense, etc.) and possibly taste (alcohol, herbs, feasts, delicacies, etc.) It seems to me that some interesting game ideas open up if you allow for taste and smell. How could game designers make games that utilized smell and taste?

Smell seems to be right around the corner. Consider The Scentscape. Imagine crawling through a dungeon and smelling the reassuring aroma of your burning torch. Imagine really being able to smell that famous "napalm in the morning," or the exotic flowers and plants in games like Riven. I don't imagine many people would want to smell rotting corpses, but I suppose that could be done, too, just to add to the horror. This could, of course, become part of the gameplay in adventures and such--an "aroma puzzle." Or it could heighten the feeling of immersion if you could smell a creature before you could see or hear it!

What about taste? This one seems trickier to me, though perhaps could become a lucrative industry. I could see something like "flavor packs" for individual games, with instructions to eat and drink various substances as you play. This can be done on your own, of course, such as swilling your favorite ale in real life as your character does in the game. Or you could provide some small candies, perhaps gourmet-flavored jelly beans. These are already available in unbelievable flavors, so it could probably suffice for just about anything you'd want in a game. Drink a potion; eat that flavor jelly bean or swig that little vial of energy drink. Hell, why wouldn't food companies want to get in on this, providing licensed goodies. You could make it more fun by not identifying the flavors; just stick them in numbered compartments. "Eat Jelly Belly #25." Maybe figuring out what that taste is supposed to be could be part of the gameplay. I wonder if this has ever been done by a major game company as anything other than a joke?

Would smell or taste make for a better game? I think they could be a lot of fun, and fun is what most games are after, right? So why not?


Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
Is it possible to build some

Is it possible to build some kind of food that would move around, and you'd have to catch it? Like little gummy worms that'd really squiggle, or perhaps jelly orcs that'd run and you'd have to snatch them up? Maybe they could contain a transceiver that'd notify the system when one had actually been chewed up and swallowed.

I've seen little internal thermometers that can be swallowed safely. They contain radios that report your temp. About the size of a horse pill. Not sure if anything we have now could survive being chewed up and still provide power, not to mention avoiding any poisoning concerns.


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