Smell That Video Game Smell

by August 11th, 2011 - Science » Culture » Video Games »

I recently purchased Gran Turismo 5 due to my newly found fandom of Top Gear, an interest to learn how to drive manual, and the fact that Burnout Paradise is good for learning how to violently crash a car but not actually how to drive a car in any proper way.

Upon revving up GT5, I was suddenly struck with nostalgia for Ridge Racer. I was never a fan of realistic car racing and that was certainly the case with Ridge Racer, but I WAS quite the fan of the very first Sony Playstation and given its lack of launch titles I necessarily became a big fan of Ridge Racer.

The entire experience of the Sony Playstation launch burned such deep sensory memories into my mind that I can still remember the grey-blue morning sky hanging over the car ride to EBX at the Lehigh Valley Mall, the conversation of others waiting in line, the obvious foolishness of buying an arcade joystick peripheral yet purchasing one anyway, and the chemical smell of unpacking the upstart console at home.

The smell is what I remember most and what strangely occupied my thoughts upon first playing Gran Turismo 5. And this thought made me think of other highly emotional console purchases in my life.

I remember the smell of lifting a brand new Sega Genesis out of the trunk of an old Chevy Citation, the wonderful symphony of cardboard, ink, styrofoam and plastic becoming stronger and stronger as it left the dusty musk of the carpeted car.

And I remember the smell of the Super Nintendo controllers – specifically – a particular plastic smell that I attached to what the shiny little hat of Mario must have smelled like in the wet, echo-filled caves of Super Mario World.

As these different smells were recalled in my mind, I began comparing them, finding subtle differences as one might find contrasting the bouquets of fine wines. While these differences may very well only exist in my mind, there should actually exist noticeable olfactory distinctions between the three systems in their original packaging – and this gave me a grand thought.

Someone should design an experiment where mint versions of all three systems are kept behind glass and blindfolded participants with some history of ownership are asked to identify the contents. Some noses and minds may be better than others. Some may have their memory perverted by other emotional fabrication. And it may all be an impossible expectation, but I would still be tickled if an attempt were made to discover if enthusiasts who have never actually studied the the smell for such an exhibition, may have had such strong emotions for the products at launch, burning such a precise memory into their mind so as to overcome the improbability of comparing the subtle differences in smell amongst plastics, styrofoam and circuit boards.

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