Face Fighter Reflection

October 18, 2011

Our project, which we will from now on refer to as Face Fighter, attempts to transform traditional views of retro and retro-styled video games by means of a non- conventional control interface. Because modern mainstream video games typically use advanced game engines, 3D graphics, and rely on powerful machines to run – retro-styled games are denounced, sanctioned off for independent developers working on low-budget projects, only for their work to be consumed by the nostalgic. We propose a video game that harmonizes new technologies with retro aesthetics. Face Fighter is an old-school “shoot’em up” that is controlled not with a d-pad, but with your face.

The premise of Face Fighter is simple. The player controls a combat ship flying through outer space, being mindful of incoming asteroids (and a dominant “boss” figure, which happens to be a face itself). Instead of using a game controller to influence gameplay, the player controls their ship through a purely camera-based, continuous interface.
Software tracks the player’s head and creates coordinates in the software space, directly corresponding to the direction and speed the ship flies in at any given time. To shoot, the player tilts his or her head downward. This non-conventional interface is juxtaposed with aging visual and audible cues to create an entirely new experience for the participant.

Although the interface offers a direct line of control (the player commands the ship by his or her motions), it is a continuous interface – the player must react by instinct, moving their body based on what is generated on-screen. The player may even find him or herself moving in unexpected, unnatural ways as a knee-jerk reaction to what they are seeing. In this sense, the player is both controlling the game and being controlled by the game, making for an interesting interaction to observe. Besides the translation from tilting the player’s head downward to shooting, there is little ambiguity in the fluidity of the controls – as a result, players can trust that their body’s natural movements will be translated into the game relatively unchanged. Player can fully explore the game’s virtual environment without being overtly conscious of the often-silly movements they’re making in physical reality.

Because the software can lose track of the player’s head for brief periods of time, we expect to see self-directed feedback occur from the participant. When the game isn’t being controlled perfectly, the player might evaluate their behaviour in physical space and readjust their motions to better control the game. This “break” takes the user away from the immersive virtual world for a moment in order to re-enter as soon as possible.

Face Fighter is an example of the interesting “push and pull” attributes that interactive computer art can uphold. The game attempts to understand the real world while sucking you in. The user drifts between the virtual and the real, both informing one another.