A little while ago, I had an idea. A completely insane idea.
Since I love virtual pets, interactive toys, and stuffed animals as well as video games and I absolutely adore the concept of Augmented Reality (digital objects interacting with a real environment, or visa-versa - for a good example, see Sony's Eye-Pet), I wanted to see how far I could go in making up a way to integrate them all with each other.
This is my brain on imagination. (Click it to see the full thing in insanityvision!)
The slightly ridiculous concept was christened Project DarwiN+Level (precocious random capitalization included, and referred to for the rest of this post as pDL) and I created a lot of hypothetical content for it, i.e. packages and an instruction manual, as if it had any chance of being a "real" thing rather than a crazy idea. I even went through a bit of a breakdown when I thought to myself "Is this even technologically possible!?". I didn't care about money or fame or having my name on the box. All I cared about was that I REALLY WANTED TO PLAY THIS FICTIONAL GAME. It's the creative geek's ultimate lament - coming up with something that would be absolutely epic...if it were at all possible outside of said deranged mind. I put the idea away and continued developing it purely as fiction, including sequels and a storyline (similar to all the fake "cartoons" I come up with to populate my fictional TV channel...yes, there is probably something wrong with me).
I closed the idea out of my mind that anything even similar to this would exist until I was my parents' age. Outside from the above Eye-Pet, promotional stunts and Avatar action figures, nobody had really embraced augmented reality in the mainstream yet, and the idea of a plush interacting with a video game? Hysterical!
Then, the world surprised me.
At E3 2010, Babysitting Mama was showcased. I haven't really paid attention to the Mama series (although I must admit I love the style of the characters in the game). Then, I realized that this game contains something I could have sworn was the whole damn point of my crazy idea: a plush gaming peripheral!
Prepare to die of cuteness.
That's right, Babysitting Mama comes with an actual plush baby that, when combined with the wii remote, becomes integrated with the game. That is, the doll is the 'body' and the game is the 'brain' - exactly how I imagined pDL, but using the wiimote as the circuitry. There's no need to add a gyroscope or a battery pack - the remote is all you need. The remote speaker even functions as the baby's voice, allowing it to call for attention. That, my friends, is effing genius. I only wish I could have thought of that! Even better - this baby's gonna be born this November. I'll actually own it within this year.
If that wasn't enough, I then heard about something that had actually first surfaced on the 'net November 2009 (what?! I missed something on the internet!?). Prepare to meet yet another example of "Holy crap, I think I saw something like this in my dreams once": WiiWaa. Yet another plush interface using the wiimote as its 'internal organs' and the Wii system as its 'brain', WiiWaa is essentially the ultimate example of something I wish existed and never expected to actually exist.
HOLY MOTHER OF HELL YES
Moving the titular creature controls its movement onscreen - you can shake off enemies, jump, turn upside down, creep around like Solid Snake, and even swing from bungee-ears. BUNGEE-EARS! There's no word on a release date yet, but even rumors of it being a PAL region exclusive aren't going to stop me from getting this - even if I need to literally buy a new Wii just to play it. Insanity!
Here are a few other examples of plush being used as wireless interfaces. Unfortunately, none of these are for purchase...but all are being developed at this very moment, so something similar on the market someday is highly likely (who wouldn't want to battle plush ninjas with wi-fi signals?).
As for augmented reality? Well, it seems to be getting easier and easier to find as the days go by. The inclusion of cameras in several gaming devices means that there is now proper hardware to support the technology for gaming. Developers, make it so.
The future of Project DarwiN+Level is uncertain. I'll probably still keep making crap up for it, just for fun. As for the future of games like it? I might very well be playing one as soon as Christmas.
Not bad for a ridiculous idea.