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Color Your World

The Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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It would seem that no amount of explanation could truly convey the unique way in which synesthetes experience the world. But for those of you still left reaching for what synethesia actually feels like after listening to Steffie Tomson’s fascinating descriptions, there is hope!

In 2001 Japanese game designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi set out to create a video game that would allow anyone to experience the sensation of synesthesia. The game he and his team produced is called “Rez.” At first glance it appears to simply be an action game set in a virtual computer world. But in fact, it’s much more.

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“Rez” is an experience uniquely tailored to blur the lines between the senses of sight, sound, and touch. Players can even chose whether they want the game to challenge them with danger, or they can select a “traveling” mode to take it all in unmolested. In lieu of gunfire and explosions, every event in the game produces musical notes that fall perfectly in sync with the electronic soundtrack. The controller also produces a rising series of synchronized vibrations; these build in complexity with the music over the 10 or so minutes it takes to traverse each level. While it’s a tenuous result, when “Rez” works the player can actually experience a unified sensation that’s wholly distinct from sight, sound, and touch alone. Synethesia!

For many years “Rez” was quite a rare game that only a few avid collectors were able to play. But today those of you who would like to dive in are in luck. The game is currently available for a modern console; it’s been updated to take advantage of HD televisions and is able to control the rumble of all four controllers independently. Even more exciting is that Mizuguchi’s next project, “Child of Eden,” will be in 3D and use hands-free motion controls. Hopefully it will help many more of us relate to synesthetes everywhere!