Control issues

So Jim Henley had a pretty good discussion going on his (justly) much trafficked blog Unqualified Offerings about what the next generation of electronic games and game controllers might be like. I put a long comment in the thread --

Ramblin' (you have been so advised) --

The DREAM PARK books by Niven and Barnes delighted and dismayed me in equal parts. Delighted because, well, what RPGer wouldn't want to think that RPGs could become so legitimate, and such big business, in the future? Plus, the whole 'fully interactive' thing, with the actor NPCs and the holograms and all that. WAY cool.

Dismayed because I've done the LARP thing, once, and it sucked. You get all the bad stuff -- the heat, the humidity, the GOD damned mosquitoes, the sticking your foot in a mudhole up to your knee -- even the combat bruises, if you're playing with insane LARPers like I did the one time, with all their padded pipe weaponry whack-whack-whack-HEY-I-hit-you-right-in-the-head-you're-DEAD -can-I-get-a-judge-over-here nonsense. And you don't get any of the GOOD stuff; the high tech/magic/sweet elven kingdom/lost treasure stuff is still all imaginary and there may indeed be a hot chick playing the captured hot chick you gotta rescue part, but she's married to one of the guys DMing the scenario and besides your own girlfriend is there giving you the fish eye whenever the hot chick you gotta rescue is around, with all the 'what she can't wear CLOTHES while she's chained to the dungeon wall rashen frashen fricken fracken' and it's just a downer, man. Totally harsh.

The DREAM PARK stuff gets you around a lot of that -- you could actually have good real world simulations of the magic and the high tech gimmicks and the exotic back drops and if you do well enough in the scenario you actually make some real world loot, which is cool. But what dismayed me about all that live RPGing stuff the way they did it is that in order to be good at it, you had to be, you know, a JOCK. Imagination and quick wits weren't enough. You had to be in shape, you had to be able to jump around, climb ropes, swing on vines, actually wield a sword-shaped whatever at whatever. Me, I pull a muscle setting up the the artificial Christmas tree. RPGs are where I go to escape my tedious potato reality; an RPG where all the kids who used to beat me up in high school can still beat me up in Mordor isn't my idea of a good time.

That's one thing. Here's another --

For a long time I've had this idea for the next generation of interactive games. You'd have to set up some kind of collapsible circular dome-tent thing. The framework and the tent fabric would have to be some kind of material that can project images, and it would all plug into some kind of game console. So you'd stand in the middle of this tent thing on something like the dance pads from DDR, and you'd have wristbands that would relay your hand movements to the game console, and maybe the game would come with a big plastic chest full of accessories -- various weapons you'd use in different fighting games that would work like a Wii (with swords and stuff) or like a lazer tag weapon (with phasers and blaster rifles and like that). The panels that hold the weapons in the chest could be reversible; you could take them out and snap them together and you've got a Star Trek type console that you can fight starship battles from. Or a steering wheel/dashboard/stick shift for a driving game. Or whatever.

The tent around you would project the surroundings for various games, and you'd sit at your console (for a Star Trek bridge type simulation) or walk down corridors or wilderness paths or city streets (for nearly anything else). You could stop and talk live action to the others around you, or, using the weaponry, assault them. Or whatever.

It would be great for online interaction with other live players in the same game setting. Of course, they wouldn't see you as you are, they'd see you as the character you'd created...

If you don't like the projection-tent, sub in a VR helmet. Same thing. You still need the big bulky chest of weapons and other game accessories, though, and it could drive an entire industry, manufacturing other (better, more expensive than standard issue) accessories. Blasters with longer range. Class swords. Whatever.

That game might be cool, because, hell, you'd have to get off your ass and get in some kind of shape to play it at any kind of nominal level, but you wouldn't have to be the kind of Olympic level athlete that all the gamers in DREAM PARK had to be in order to excel. The game itself could be programmable to an extent -- yeah, you have to stay on your feet for as long as you want to play, but the game itself could be programmed to make your character faster and stronger and more coordinated than you actually are (I suppose by slowing down the NPCs you're interacting with, if nothing else).

I will note that in a DREAM PARK type set up, I'd want to be the DM, not the gamer. The DM, with that really cool computerized control center from which you can project holograms and order around volunteer NPCs and keep track of everyone with the security cameras... now THAT's DMing. The royalties you get from future use of a successful scenario are just gravy.

Obviously, if you've never read any of the DREAM PARK books this comment is near entirely wasted on you, but why should this comment be different from all my other ones?

The last paragraph may seem self pitying, and I probably respect that even less than you do. But Henley rarely acknowledges my comments in any way; more often than not, if I post something to one of his threads, the thread immediately dries up and blows away. Which is exactly what happened here. Still, I enjoyed writing the comment, and maybe one of you few people who actually read this blog will enjoy it, too.

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