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 the queerness of the universe, advergaming turning to industrial products, and the man (or woman) in the mirror.
- It seems that games crop up everywhere and in all kinds of thinking, even in highbrow science. This week, for example, they’ve been the subject of discussion for celebrity Darwinist Professor Richard Dawkins, as he explained the ‘queerness’ of the universe to a congregation of intellectuals at the TED event in Oxford
, England. He suggested that since it is so difficult to grasp quantum concepts, children should be given video games that would explain the bizarre repercussions of extreme quantum cleverness in interactive form. "It would make an interesting experiment," he told the BBC News website
. That it would, Prof Dawkins, but someone has to design and develop these games first, and who is going to be wiling to take on such a task? The Esoteric Beat challenges its readers become the first designers of a quantum explanation game...
- Elsewhere, Gonzalo Frasca over at 'serious games' website Watercooler Games has singled out
a new advergame developed for UK energy company Powergen. Frasca comments of the title
, simply named 'The Boiler Game', which allows you to play as Paula or Pete the boiler engineer to fix the central heating system for a house: "What makes me particularly happy is to see more unexpected products popping up in the advergaming world (boilers!) ...things like The Boiler Game reminds us that there is a huge amount of potential clients out there that just need to be convinced that games could be what they are needing." It's not necessarily crystal clear that playing an (admittedly fun) 2D platformer will convince everyone to buy a major new home appliance, but as advertisers have discovered over time, brand recognition is a funny old thing.
- Finally, another collision between science and games came to light this week in the form of Through The Looking Glass
[PDF link], a research project game which allows players to play a full-action Pong/air-hockey game against themselves, in a mirror. The player sits at the table with disc-like baton and hits the virtual ball back and forth against their own reflection. There’s also a video available online of it in action
[ASF link]. The technology this is based on is a light diffusing film
, which turns the table top into a screen from which different images can be seen from different angles – hence the player being able to see the ball cross from the ‘real’ table to the reflected one. Needless to say, it’s pretty hard to outwit your reflection, and the most competitive gamers might become rather frustrated. Expect to see one of these at a theoretical technologies convention near you some time this year…
[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. Simon Carless also contributed to this report.]