1.2 Blank Arcade

Yesterday I discovered that an exhibition of ‘alternative game concepts’ was opening tonight at Abertay, and I decided that while it runs until the end of October, a visit now would allow me to speak to the creators of the exhibits and be the perfect end to the first week of my project.

There were two games that I found particularly interesting. The first was a board game called eBee which consists of a quilted hexagonal pieces with conductive fabric and SMLEDs glued onto one side and Velcro on the other, and a quilted board also containing Velcro so that the pieces can be securely placed. The object of the game is to build a circuit which runs out from the centre of the board and around before returning back to the centre. As pieces are connected successfully, the SMLEDs light up.

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The mixing of electronics and fabric makes for an unusually tactile gaming experience. Fabric is typically only used in games and toys for very young children, and the physical sensation of placing pieces is something I rarely notice in board games – with the exception of Chess where the pieces are not uniform in size, shape or weight. While I have seen electronics included in games, it is unusual to see the electronics being so integral to the game that it constitutes the core mechanic rather than a higher level aspect designed to appeal to the generations who have grown up with video gaming.

The second was not exactly a game, but an interactive sculpture called Katakata which is based on the Jacob’s Ladder toy. Visitors were invited to participate in a playful experience by using their mobile phones to control the movement of the pieces in the work. Turning the phone causes the pieces to flip from their black side to their white, emitting sounds according to the position and motion of the phone.

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I think what intrigues me most about this piece is the act of using one object to cause movement and sound within another without a physical connection between the two. Integrating this kind of connection into a game may make it quite accessible for visually impaired people while providing an interesting experience for non-vi people.

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