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Games Of 2020 - The Winners

March 9, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 21 Next

Appliance Gaming 2020

Submitted By: Daniel Cook

The massive success of WiiFit was a wakeup call, not for the game industry, but for Maytag and Whirlpool. With a dash of simple game design, a simple bathroom scale outsold the most popular bathroom scales in the history of mankind by an order of magnitude.

A cadre of lapsed game developers, reinvigorated by their new 40-hour a week jobs, saw the obvious business opportunity and leapt for it. The resulting product: cloud connected household appliances combined with simple games and an augmented reality feedback system. The resulting consumer boom is widely credited with ending the economic malaise of America's Lost Decade.


The basic technology was quite straight forward. Hook up some inexpensive sensors and a wireless connection to assorted dishwashers,vacuums, refrigerators and washing machines. Add a feedback device in the form of a vision aware monocle. Viola, you've turned your every day environment into an omnipresent game machine.

The monocle displays a high definition HUD over the players normal view of the world. A camera with depth sensing captures the 20 megapixel scene at 60 FPS. This is then converted into a 3D representation and game objects are inserted in.

The resulting image is then redisplayed on the monocle. Such augmented reality systems are now quite popular. Why watch a static George Clooney on a TV screen when you can be doing the dishes and map a youthful George Clooney's face and voice in real time onto that of your spouse?


Application games were initially simple mini-game collections when you cleaned and tidied for points. These were pooh poohed as a fad by gaming geriatrics who still thought it was hip to wire a heavily DRM'd box to a "television".

Luckily, they eventually died out along with all the other solitary gamers. Over time, market competition drove the development of rich story lines, massive multiplayer worlds, and 18+ content involving the surprisingly successful maid games genre.


Appliance gaming uses the popular "Free"-to-Live model. Appliances are provided at no charge, dropped off at your door by burly men who are themselves 80th level delivery paladins. Players pay for new play modes and status abilities.

For example, you can either play 20 hours or pay 300 yuan to unlock the warm rinse cycle on your washing machine. Since your household cleaning patterns are automatically Twittered (or Twoogled ever since Twitter engulfed Google) to your extended friends network, washing with highly taxed hot water has become an irresistible item drop in billion dollar franchises like World of Washcraft.


Once wives and girlfriends found that their men were addicted to vacuuming as long as it involved augmented reality death matches, signups went viral. Within two years, 82% of American household considered themselves to be a moderate to compulsive appliance gamers.

There are downsides. Household arguments often devolve into husbands pleading to do 'just one more load of laundry.' The industry's current biggest challenge is breaking away from the 'hardchore gamers' and wooing women back to housework. Nintendo calls this the Pink Ocean.

Our bright future

Ian Bogost, Senior Vice President of the Hoover Games and Consumables division was caught on government spyeye commenting. "Given the correct reward system, you'd be completely shocked at the things we can convince people do with a vacuum cleaner. Why coerce when you can persuade?"

His lunch companion, Sir Miyamoto laughed knowingly. Then they both hopped onto a co-op WiiBike and sped off on a tour of the Los Angeles Crater.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 21 Next

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Nick Jacoby
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First of all, congratulations to all of the winners. I hope you all have a great time at the GDC, you definitely deserve it.

Looking at the winning entries I see much promise for mobile gaming in the future. Johnston's and others' ideas support a movement towards fun and pervasive play (or in the case of games along the lines of Jenning's Muses, deeply personal aspects of our everyday lives), although I am skeptical about our ability to develop the necessary superimposing image displays in only a decade. Regardless, I am sure that games in the spirit of these ideas will be very possible as GPS and wireless networking technologies continue to improve, and to be quite honest I cannot wait to get my hands on a GEO.

While the winning entries largely have fallen within the bounds of my predictions for mobile gaming (and were decidedly top-notch), I am somewhat surprised by the dearth of single-player designs in the top 20. Perhaps more traditional forms of media that do not require a playmate are at this point less revolutionary than social cyber-playgrounds, but like winning contestant Patrick Delaney I see much opportunity for innovation and improvement in the realm of interactive adventures. Smart stories with captivating characters and settings have driven literature for centuries (and movies for the past era), and there is no reason to believe that a good story will go out of style. As technology and video game design improves, I fully expect heavily scripted but interactive video games to be appreciated like movies in the future, despite the rising popularity in mobile gaming.

In fact, I just remembered a good point Pachter made in the MI6 roundtable on this very subject:

"I don't know that I agree with you,” Pachter responded, “Insofar as you all seem to agree that the future is social interaction -- collaborative, competitive gameplay. I think of entertainment as a solitary experience. I may go to the movies with my wife but we don't sit there and talk about it during the film. We consume it alone. You read a book by yourself. It strikes me that we're socialized to consume entertainment alone. I still think most video games are consumed alone. What role is there for the single player game for people who [want] to get away from people for awhile?"

If I happen to be dead wrong, I will still be content playing with the abominable snowman in the backyard via my RetroGlasses (love the pictures, Jake).

Ryan B
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Very fun. Congrats to all the winners!

I couldn't help but notice that Tarl Telford's Paper Planes design, on page 3, is *very* similar to David Jaffe's paper airplane game from the Experimental Gameplay Workshop at GDC 2007. Details:

Was that just a coincidence?

Tarl Telford
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"Was that just a coincidence?"


Paper Planes is more than just an interface for folding paper. You are not limited to paper airplanes. With the Crumple Algorithm, the player can create anything they can origamically envision from a single piece of paper. Paper Planes describes a multi-tiered community of folders who enjoy creating and interacting with digitally created paper sculptures.

While it may appear to use the same interface, needle and thread input into a computer is far different than nanocircuitry and microLED lights in a flexible gamescreen.

I fancy myself a writer of science fiction. What seems improbable now has most likely already been dealt with in a scifi story of some kind. There's plenty of ideas floating around in the universe. I just happened to grab onto a childhood hobby of origami and plugged it into a game design. In the end, as they say behind the scenes in Hollywood, "Content is King."

Novel interfaces have already been tried. Nintendo Power Glove and 3d goggles didn't catch on as much more than a novelty along the way.

Paper Planes is a story, a world, a community and a personal palette, coupled with an interface. My part is the world. The techies can figure out the physical controls.

- Tarl

Robert Chang
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One issue I find with trying to have games connect to real life in such a direct and real time manner is that there's always the danger of overzealous gamers causing safety problems due to not watching where they're going, trying too hard to score or level up, being too competitive, or emotional outbursts causing real life consequences. The idea that we could incorporate our other half or household chores into the games are noble thoughts, but the downside is that many people will feel used because their main value to their partners become ways to advance in the game. People will start to place a skewed sense of value on their mates and responsibilities around the house and lose touch with reality. I could just hear people complain "The only time you're interested in me is when you want to use me to play your stupid game!" This would be especially true when one partner enjoys the games less than the other. Also any games that could cause significant bodily harm would be a huge problem with lawsuits. Human nature is a factor to consider when dealing with real life gaming in uncontrolled environments. With real life games like paintball or lasertag, the gaming space is controlled and there are set rules to obey and you pay money to be there. But in regular public spaces any overzealous gaming might turn into a safety hazard. Adults already get into physical fights when trying to buy that rare Christmas present for their kids--can you imagine what would happen when they get too competitive in a game in a public space like a supermarket or in traffic?

The great thing about games right now is that they remain in their own fantasy space and do not mix with reality so easily, and that is a good thing. Even now with multiplayer games you already see bullies and jerks hiding behind their game handles and mistreating others--taking that kind of interactivity to the next level would only make things worse, though punitive measures could probably take care of that (you get enough other players reporting on your bad behavior and your account gets suspended). I think any kind of integration of real life with gaming should be designed around minimum possible physical altercations with other players, otherwise we're looking at a lot of lawsuits. These games are not the same as sports in nature because with sports people have a set of expectation, while in these games players are often not sports players and do not have sportsman like conduct ingrained in their values.

I also think that people will always want maximum escapism instead of dealing with real life issues, no matter how you try to incorporate them into games. A completely detached and fantasy/sci-fi/horror/action world provides a totally different and exciting world to explore, with no consequences in real life, and for that reason they will always remain very popular. All the social networking aspect of the future game designs are assuming the best--that everyone is socially well-adapted. Many people may find the social aspect to be a peer-pressure and prefer to be alone. Also, social networking games could have real life consequences--you may offend a friend due to something you did in a game, and not everyone wants to deal with that kind of consequence.

Scott Mills
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Hello, my name is Scott Mills. I have been looking for Richard Marzo for quite awhile. Your email address no longer works, and your phone number in Japan doesn't work for me either. Email me dude, or call me. You should know my stuff.

Craig Timpany
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Wow, everyone else did mobile augmented reality games as well! Perhaps I should've taken the contrarian approach instead and suggested that in 10 years time, people will still have buttocks and will still have chairs to rest them in. ;)

Wonderful contest. I'd love to see it become a regular event.