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Digital into Real: Games That Link the Physical & Digital

December 12, 2011

I’m getting increasingly interested in the idea of games that break out of the digital space, to partly co-exist in the real world. This has been called ARG, or Augmented Reality Games, but I’m getting more interested in games that interact more around a physical object, than a physical space (which is what I associate more with ARGs). We’ve been playing at Red Wasp Design, with 3D printing technology and I think this is facinating stuff. Not only does 3D printing promise to be another technological revolution – a sort of personalised industrial revolution, but it also offers some intriguing ideas for games and gaming.

Here’s a couple of things that are shaping my thinking in this area:

  • Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure – Action figures that interact with the game – what’s not to love?  (And it’s got a Dragon in it too!)
  • Eye of Judgement – This was (is?) Sony’s PS3 title that used the PS3’s Eyetoy and allowed you to play a battle-cards game on a special mat, in a way that linked the game on screen with the player’s action with the cards. It was quite a good strategy game and the cards/graphics thing was fun. The main problem with it was that the card functionality was a little fiddly and ultimately would have been better had the whole thing been implemented digitally. What it needed to do was to make the real-world cards have a functionality that could not be done better in a digital space; else what is the point?
  • Tamagotchi – This was a huge craze a few years ago. Tiny little virtual ‘creatures’ that needed you to care for them. Why it worked was that the device that they lived in was something that you could easily carry with you. Thus it extended the virtual into the real.
  • Thingiverse – An amazing site where people can upload and download 3D models for use in the 3D printer.
  • Fab Labs – A global series of projects that create spaces filled with 3D printing and related technology and aim to create communities of people working on new ideas.  A great summary of the power of this idea came during BBC’s ClickOn radio show on 17th November by Neil Gershenfeld of MIT; “We ended up at a point in society where engineering is somthing done to us by other people… something very powerful happens when you get to do it for yourself.”

Amsterdam Fab Lab at The Waag Society (Wikipedia)


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