Super Conveniently Head-Controlled Face Fighter 10987654321

April 8, 2012

An experimental video game project I worked on with my partner in crime, Jonathan Séguin, entitled Super Conveniently Head-Controlled Face Fighter 10987654321 (and yes, I know that’s a mouthful). The project began in October of 2011 and has since been featured in various exhibitions, receiving minor updates along the way.

Face Fighter attempts to transform traditional views of retro and retro-styled video games by means of a non-conventional control interface. Modern mainstream video games typically use advanced game engines, 3D graphics, and rely on powerful machines to run. As a result, 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.

Face Fighter being played at Threshold

Face Fighter being played at Threshold (February 2012).

The premise of Face Fighter is simple. The player controls a combat ship flying through outer space, being mindful of incoming asteroids. 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.

Face Fighter Preview

This is a shot of the final boss, an enemy face. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to include this in the game yet, but I thought you might enjoy the extra pixel art.

The player must react by instinct, moving their body based on what is generated on-screen. They may even find themselves moving in unexpected, unnatural ways as a knee-jerk reaction to what they are seeing. Player can fully explore the game’s virtual environment without being overtly conscious of the often-silly movements they’re making in physical reality. The user drifts between the virtual and the real, both informing one another.

Face Fighter was featured at Threshold in February 2012, Maximum Exposure in April 2012, and TIFF Next Wave: Future Games in May 2012.