Shockers Bluff is your new dinner party ice breaker

If “Feel the Pain” is your favorite Dinosaur, Jr. song, then you’re in for a treat.

Michael Hand of the Revision3’s show DIY Tryin‘ has put together a devious game concept that will surely upset everyone you know and likely send another to the hospital. Titled Shocker’s Bluff, the concept is simple. Three players hook themselves up to be with electrodes and connect them to a computer. The computer shocks two of the three participants but not the third. The goal is for a fourth person, ostensibly, to figure out who the faker is. Drinks and merriment ensue.

Connecting games to physical feedback is one thing. We have haptic systems everywhere, but the desire to inflict actual pain on players is something few designers deign to do. Painstation, created by Volker Morawe and Tilman Reiff of the artist collective//////////fur//// art entertainment interfaces, was one of the few exceptions. A giant hulking box of unhappiness, it was a standard game of Pong that would punish you for errors with a series of burns, shocks, and slaps. As Pippin Barr wrote, games like Painstation and Shocker’s Bluff are less about the physical sensation:

Our experience becomes a kind of “pain tasting” experience. We’re interested to find out what each pain is like, not so much tolerating it as swilling it around our nervous systems like connoisseurs.

This form of “touching the hot stove” is actually connected to our childhood desires to seek out risky play. Ellen Sandseter, an early childhood researcher at Queen Maud University, has found that kids naturally are drawn to six types of risky play including exploring heights, handling dangerous tools, exploring solo, and, of course, just being near something dangerous. (See more in Hannah Rosin’s excellent Atlantic feature.)

That’s good to know. And you can explain that to friends when you’re hooking them up to Shocker’s Bluff. They’ll understand.