In an effort to deliver the ultimate sensory experience, most top video games marry earthshaking sounds with high-quality graphics. It's a goal that often falls a bit short.
Let's face it. Sitting in a chair playing video games feels pretty much just like sitting in a chair.
That's where a new device called the Buttkicker Gamer comes in.
It's a thick metal device ($170) that clamps tightly to the center post of most office chairs. Powered by a 100-watt amplifier and low frequency transducer, it shakes powerfully when a game emits low bass audio frequencies.
Delivering physical feedback to a gamer is not new, but previous efforts have tended to focus on gentle buzzing and making a handheld controller vibrate.
The Buttkicker Gamer takes all that to a whole new level — the seat of the pants — and it works quite well.
The manufacturer suggests using the device to feel the gaming action without having to crank the sound. I found it fun to do a bit of both.
I tried the unit with two of my favorite action-packed PC games — Boarder Zone, a snowboarding game, and Counter Strike, a first-person shooter. It took some fine-tuning with the low cutoff and high cutoff frequency buttons. Toying with those allowed me to adjust the rumble delivered to the clamp, and by extension, my seat.
I turned on the high and low cutoff buttons and set the frequency knob to 40 hertz, per suggestion of the manual. Other adjustments can be made if the user is going to sit in the Buttkicker powered chair and listen to music, but I wanted to play.
The suggested settings worked well. When I cranked the Buttkicker output too high, my chair rattled at even the slightest bass frequencies, scaring the daylights of me and my dog.
On the snowboarding game, the Buttkicker rumbled as I made a hard landing. In Counterstrike, it was the loud blast from my weapon or a nearby explosive device that got the Buttkicker going.
Some more docile games didn't lend themselves to such feedback, and I often found myself reaching to disable the Buttkicker and re-enable my plain old 2.1 subwoofer.
But this device by The Guitammer Co. Inc. delivered quite an experience as billed, and it got me looking forward to trying dozens of games on my shelf all over again to see if it will kick new life into them.