When it was revealed that you could buy a Resident Evil 7 candle that smelled like the Baker house (apparently ‘old timber, leather, and maybe some blood…’) I assumed it was a kind of fad marketing tie-in because of the VR thing. I don’t think this was unreasonable of me, because it was described as a 4D candle. Then, earlier this year, Blizzard produced a 20 year anniversary ‘dark smoke’ candle. Scant more than a week ago a series of Destiny 2 candles, in a cute little Ghost candle holder, were announced. Apparently Mars smells like ‘sappy green cactus’ and white flowers, which seems a bit unlikely. GAMETEE sells candles inspired by the Hyrulian Forest and the Pokémon Grass Type, amongst others. Scented gaming candles are, apparently, a thing.
It seems like a weirdly analogue thing to add to a digital form of entertainment, although scented candles are becoming increasingly popular and the Yankee Candle shopping channel is, trust me, endlessly entertaining. Scented candles are even acceptable for men now, and we know that because an apparently unironic company is selling MANdles named things like ‘The Carnivore’ and ‘Mountain Man’, because a male can only like candles that smell nice as long as they don’t make him some kind of pussy, and if that means he has to burn a candle that, against all good logic, smells of hickory smoked bacon, then by God he’d better do it. I digress, though.
It’s seems more out of place for a game like Destiny 2, sci-fi being generally associated with lens flare and doors that go ssshwick than it is with candles. Something like Diablo III is at least full of candles all over the place, although they probably don’t all smell of ‘burned souls reaped in the world of Sanctuary’. But extra sensory additions like smells and sounds already have a long tradition in gaming, just not with video games.
The most famous pen and paper RPG is probably Dungeons & Dragons, but there are loads of different ones to suit all tastes. Pen and paper RPGs are the original analogue versions of video game RPGs: where the computer does the probability dice rolls behind the scenes, you do them yourself; where it displays castles and towns and forests, you must imagine them. Or, to be more accurate, the GM (gamemaster, or sometimes DM for dungeonmaster) describes them to you. And for years the enterprising GM has been helping the players along with this, employing different sounds and scents to make it easier to get immersed. In fact, GAMETEE also sells candles for this express purpose.
While there’s usually too many sharing size bags of crisps and empty cans of embarrassingly weak lager on our gaming table to really have room for candles (though our GM does make a decent fist of doing voices, his take on a Brooklyn accent being a firm favourite), there are now companies like Adventure Scents dedicated entirely to making scent jars and bags for specific but still common RPG environments like ‘Wizard’s Tower’, ‘Welcoming Inn’ and ‘Pool of Acid’. GMs don’t have to busk it quite as ingeniously as they used to, and it’s unlikely anything will be set on fire if anyone gestures toward adventure too exuberantly.
It doesn’t stop there, of course. Imagine, you’ve burnt some strange sound effects onto a CD which, while ultimately all harmless, are nevertheless weird when heard without context, and someone accidentally puts it on at your birthday party, in front of your crush! Oh no! How many times has this happened to you, right? Well, probably none, but the point is that these days it’s way easier for a GM to make layered soundscapes for a game now there are massive online libraries of noises like ‘water fantasy cave drips 07′.
So while, for video games, scents are still a bit of a gimmicky concept for most players, they might not actually be a bad shout. Technology has gotten to the point where you can fuck someone through the internet. Yet, despite advances with digital scent technology, the results for scent immersion are so far either a bit clunky and expensive or they sound like a front for terrifying mind control experiments. Using scented candles or scent jars is a relatively easy way to get further into a game you like, especially if it’s a favourite, and you know what sort of environments to prepare for. Although I’d probably go with the more purpose made ones, rather than merchandise that suggests Venus smells of ‘Shimmering white musk with a hint of coconut’.