Gabe Newell Wants Us To Control Video Games With Our Brain

Valve Index Gabe Newell

For as long as the medium has been around, video games have largely required the use of peripherals such as controllers or keyboards, with each hardware iteration pursuing greater input and immersion for the player. With the advent of such responsive devices as Sony’s DualSense controller, the technology would appear to be at its peak in recent years. However, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell suggests the greatest tool for playing games may actually be our mind itself.

As per a recent interview with New Zealand’s 1 News, Newell revealed quite a bit about his work regarding brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) and how the technology might change the way players experience games in the near future. Studying the potential for “several years” at this point, Valve has been underway on an open-source BCI project that could introduce the ability for developers to interpret the brain signals of gamers.

​​We’re working on an open source project so that everybody can have high-resolution [brain signal] read technologies built into headsets, in a bunch of different modalities”

With discussions described as being “indistinguishable from science fiction,” the project has forged a partnership with hardware-maker OpenBCI, who themselves have developed an advanced headset capable of sensing when someone is excited, sad, bored, or afraid. Gabe Newell expressed hope that this kind of advancement might lead to increased immersion and greater personalization in games, such as automatic difficulty boosts when boredom is detected from the player.

OpenBCI Galea

Newell also discussed a more cutting-edge aspect of the technology that might make these types of controllers a two-way street. Outside interpretation, the Valve co-founder suggested BCIs may also hold the ability to “write signals to people’s minds,” enabling the ability to deliver “better-than-real visuals” or even alter someone’s own emotions as they are experiencing a game. Newell believes this Braindance-like technology would be greatly more fulfilling than the traditional “meat peripherals,” a.k.a. eyes and ears, that we have now.

​”You’re used to experiencing the world through eyes,” Gabe Newell said, “but eyes were created by this low-cost bidder that didn’t care about failure rates and RMAs, and if it got broken there was no way to repair anything effectively, which totally makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, but is not at all reflective of consumer preferences.”

​The real world will seem flat, colourless, blurry compared to the experiences you’ll be able to create in people’s brains.”

With this in mind, the possibility for therapeutic applications is also apparent to Newell, as he expects people will enjoy improved sleep or will even be able to set how much REM they get during the night. Going further, he also suggested BCIs may eventually enable people to edit the contents of their own brains, such as suppressing or outright removing “unwanted feelings or conditions” from someone’s mind completely. Of course, as with anything with ample potential, Newell also addressed the possibility for BCIs to be compromised or used to experience harm.

​You could make people think they [are] hurt by injuring their tool, which is a complicated topic in and of itself.”

Cyberpunk 2077

With the advent of brain-altering technology, it presents a number of potential risks, including the very Cyberpunk 2077-esque threat of being “hacked” by a malicious party. However, Newell stresses that while Valve plans for all BCI products to be “rigorously tested and are secure from breaches,” he suggests such a device likely won’t be wholly adopted by the gaming community or the greater community at large. “​People are going to decide for themselves if they want to do it,” Newell said. “Nobody makes people use a phone.”

​Right now, you have to trust all your financial data, all of your personal information to your technology infrastructure, and if the people who build those people do a bad job of it, they’ll drive consumer acceptance off a cliff.”

​”Nobody wants to say, ‘Oh, remember Bob? Remember when Bob got hacked by the Russian malware? That sucked – is he still running naked through the forests?’ or whatever,” Gabe Newell suggested. “So yeah, people are going to have to have a lot of confidence that these are secure systems that don’t have long-term health risks.”

While Gabe Newell has obviously put considerable thought into the application of brain-computer interfaces, he concluded that an actual device from Valve may be quite a while away. ​”The rate at which we’re learning stuff is so fast,” he said. “You don’t want to prematurely say, ‘OK, let’s just lock everything down and build a product and go through all the approval processes, when six months from now, we’ll have something that would have enabled a bunch of other features.”

What do you think? Would you join Gabe Newell in creating a new BCI master race, or do you feel that a traditional controller/keyboard-mouse setup works well enough for you? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow Don’t Feed the Gamers on Twitter and Facebook to be informed of the latest gaming and entertainment news 24 hours a day! For more headlines recently featured on DFTG, check out these next few news stories:

If you enjoy this writer’s work, please consider supporting them by tossing a Ko-fi their way! Every little bit helps and aims to keep DFTG independent and free of bias. Thank you so much for your support! Eric Hall @ Ko-fi

Eric Hall2538 Posts

Phone-browsing Wikipedia in one hand and clutching his trusty controller in the other, the legendary Eric Hall spreads his wealth of knowledge as a writer for Don't Feed the Gamers. Be sure to catch his "Throwback Thursday" segment for a nostalgic look at trivia from the past.


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