‘Videogames, Emotion, and the Six Senses’, in Media, Culture and Society 30 (2008)

Technology, wrote Walter Benjamin in 1939, “has subjected the human sensorium to a complex kind of training.” New technologies have the potential to reorganise sensory priorities, to augment the senses and to modify the relationships between them. The physiological basis of the human sensorium has remained more or less unchanged for millennia, however, and this essay looks at some of the ways that existing sensory modalities, native to all perceptual experience but typically overlooked in discussions of such experience, are brought to light in new media forms.

Though cultural criticism has tended to privilege the role of vision in perceptual experience, other sensory modalities, such as touch and movement, have an important part to play. Of special interest here is the ‘sixth sense’ of proprioception – the sensory feedback mechanisms which determine the body’s location and movement in space. Proprioception, is intimately linked to the emotional or affective content of perceptual experience, and this link is clearly expressed in the medium of the video game.