Welcome to 'The Esoteric Beat', the news report that provides new and unusual ways to think about games and culture. This week's column looks at magic wands, biometric gaming and evil interiors.
First up, some hardware news. I bet I know what you think your game needs, Mr or missus Developer: A magic wand interface! No, okay, so that’s probably not at the top of your feature list, but you’re soon going to be able to have one anyway, thanks to one of Sony’s recent patents
(PDF link). New Scientist revealed
that the device is a conjunction of webcam and LED-tipped wand. A combination of user-activated lights and movement will allow gamers to use menus or, potentially, cast Drawmij’s Instant Geekdom on the nearest kobold. (Complaints about the nerdiness of that last joke should be directed to Gamasutra management.) So let’s get back away from the role-playing possibilities and try something a bit more manly. Train driving perhaps
? Yes, it was only a matter of time before the western audience got one of these incredible peripherals, which strikes as a much more evolved version of Taito’s controllers for its train simulator Densha de Go! This train driver interface is probably only going to appeal most to the Microsoft Train Sim owners, unless there’s a train mod for Unreal we haven’t heard of yet. Hardcore flight followers meanwhile are directed to put the latest X52
on their Christmas list.
Also in hardware, but something that goes completely off the map of normal interface territories, is the G-Link project
by student Ross O’Shea. G-Link is a wearable device designed to adapt biometric information gathered from your everyday life into the games you play. Currently the device is tied into Morrowind, and the user’s own mobility and fitness are directly reflected in the stats of their character, via the G-Link device. Staying inside to play games all day will result in the game character becoming weaker and slower, as well as slowly moving to the dark side because of the lack of exposure to sunlight. Get outside and get some exercise and the character becomes stronger and embraces righteousness. O’Shea’s site also explains how the game might tie into a game like Animal Crossing: “Say you're playing something like Animal Crossing and you find a seed that you'd like to grow into a plant. You connect the G-Link to the game, download the seed onto it and make sure to expose the G-Link to plenty of sunlight. A few hours later you upload the seed from the G-Link back into the game and hey presto!, the seed has sprouted to become a plant.” A commendable idea, but I suspect most gamers will stick with games that don’t require a quick jog to level up.
Finally, this week’s peculiar fringe game art project is Evil Interiors
by Palle Torsson. Mr Torsson has taken it on himself to recreate the sets of various grim movies using the Unreal Engine. The uncannily reproduced sets include the warehouse from Reservoir Dogs, the club from Terminator and those indefinably garish corridors from The Shining’s Overlook Hotel. Mr Torsson exhibited prints of the scenes at Gallery ndréhn-Schiptjenko in Stockholm. There are photos of the exhibit on his site, along with pictures of the Unreal sets. What is not provided, however, are map file downloads so that Unreal users can view the scenes firsthand.
[Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his progressive games journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times, to name but a few.]