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Target Audience: Animals!

Games have been made for every niche audience you could think of. But have any games been designed for animals?

A concept recently struck me, has anyone actually made a video game whose target audience isn’t humans, but animals (or a specific kind of animal)? Of course, there are some challenges with designing a game for a non-human audience. Anyway I’m going to pick cats to target for this concept, because of the way they play with laser pointers. I haven’t actually made this because I don’t have the money, space, resources, or cats to properly test (my cats live with my parents, 3000 miles away).

Anyway the simplest setup I can think of for getting this to work requires a projector, a wall, and a camera. The camera and projector are going to be at the same spot, and the camera is going to be used to detect the cat’s motion. The simplest game I can think of for this involves a red dot moving around, avoiding the cat, and the game awards the cat a “point” every time the cat “catches” the red dot.

What is going to make the cat care about it’s score though? I know it naturally enjoys chasing red dots, but this is more important when the game gets a little more complex than this; the cat needs to know when it’s doing something right, and the rewards need to be immediate, not delayed. So, I guess have a machine that dispenses kibbles of food when the cat gets a point.

If this works, it’d be interesting to see how much more complicated you could make the game before the cat gets overwhelmed. The next step, I’d say, would be a variation on “Duck Hunt”. Have the birds fly across the screen, if the cat hits a bird, the bird “dies” and the cat gets a point. I’ve seen videos of cat’s hitting birds on a screen online, but has anyone actually made that interactive?

What about Doom? The cat wouldn’t be able to control the camera very easily (although the game could pan left and right if the cat moves to the left or right, but the cat probably wouldn’t be able to understand that). Turn it into an on rails shooter, and have the monsters die when the cat hits them. Simple, would probably be very amusing to watch and very amusing for the cat.

One last idea: Guitar Hero. There’s no way you’d get the cat to strap on a plastic guitar, but what about just hitting the notes on the wall to a rhythm? You’d probably have to remove a lot of the additional distractions on the screen, and I wonder if the cat could understand when its supposed to hit the dots to get its points. At the very least, it’d be an interesting experiment.

Oh ya and then there’s marketability. I don’t have any ideas on that one, would anyone care that much about their cats to buy them an expensive toy when a $2 laser pointer works just as well? Oh wait, some people DO do that. It’s a niche market I guess, although “Cat Plays Doom” is an instant multimillion view movie on youtube.

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