Scenting Entertainment: Virtual Reality Storytelling, Theme Park Rides, Gambling, and Video-Gaming
There has long been interest in both the tonic and phasic release of scent across a wide range of entertainment settings. While the presentation of semantically congruent scent has often been used in order to enhance people’s immersion in a particular context, other generally less successful attempts have involved the pulsed presentation of a range of scents tied to specific events/scenes. Scents have even been released in the context of the casino to encourage the guests to linger for longer (and spend more), at least according to the results of one controversial study. In this narrative review, I want to take a closer look at the use of scent in a range of both physical and digital environments, highlighting the successes (as in the case of scented theme park rides) and frequent failures (as, seemingly, in the context of scent-enabled video games). While digitally inducing meaningful olfactory sensations is likely to remain a pipe dream for the foreseeable future, the digital control of scent release/delivery provides some limited opportunities to enhance the multisensory experience of entertainment. That said, it remains uncertain whether the general public will necessarily perceive the benefit, and hence be willing to pay for the privilege.