The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

Month: June, 2016

One weird mythological punishment for cannibalism, reborn as a dieting fad!

Background:

In an ancient Greek myth, King Tantalus was condemned to spend his time in the Underworld starving in a garden with a tree filled with fruit—however, any time Tantalus attempted to grab a fruit, the tree branch would bend just out of reach, preventing Tantalus from acquiring the delicious fruit.

(In case you are feeling sorry for him, the crime he committed was serving his own son as a dish at a cannibalistic dinner party.)

Presumably you have not done anything like this, but you can still benefit from the lessons of this myth to get in shape for swimsuit season!

The issue:

Extremely easy access to food is a relatively new historical phenomenon that has resulted in extremely high rates of obesity in industrialized nations.

Perhaps we can partially address this problem by re-imagining traditional ideas about food storage.

fridge

Fig 1: A standard Western kitchen. Food is within easy reach in the cupboards or fridge. Casual snacking is inescapable.

tree

Fig 2: The “Tantalus Tree” kitchen replaces all food storage areas with platters held up by movable tree arms. Additionally, the tree has a horrifying eyeball (center) that constantly tracks the user. This is a crucial element, since the food is normally stored within arms’s reach—the eyeball needs to figure out exactly where the user is, so that it can raise a branch and move the food beyond the user’s reach at the last second.

tree1_and_2_faces

Fig 3: If the user attempts to reach for a piece of food (blue hand at left), the tree whisks it out of their reach (right), causing the hungry kitchen-dweller to grasp uselessly at empty air. Woe! But good for burning calories. Perhaps the tree would eventually take pity on the user, given sufficient determination on the snacker’s part.

Conclusion:

Haul your fridge to the dump and remove all the cabinets from your kitchen immediately!

PROS: Inevitably become svelte and strong with all the jumping in the air you’ll have to do in order to reach enough food to survive.

CONS: It is unclear what it says about our society that an ancient punishment for cannibalism may now be considered a reasonable kitchen appliance.

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Cinephiles: You can now get the rich analog experience of VHS via streaming video! Liberate yourself from the harsh pixelation of compressed digital video.

Background:

In olden times, recordings could only be viewed at home by either personal movie projector (extremely rare) or VHS player.

Nowadays, digital video makes it possible for anyone to get on-demand video without the hassle of low-quality video and rewinding tapes.

But perhaps the “VHS experience” is integral to getting the full effect from certain films? Certainly no one would dispute VHS’s superiority in providing a “warmer” analog film experience without compression artifacts—not the harsh pixelated video of so-called “high definition” Blu-ray or streaming video.

Proposal:

An Internet streaming video site could easily emulate an old VHS tape by remembering the position where the viewer was in a video and forcing the user to use archaic VHS-style controls to move around in the video.

(This would also be possible with Blu-Ray discs, since they have the ability to connect to the Internet and could theoretically use this connection to save the user’s position in the video.)

Changes that could be implemented to give the full VHS experience are listed in the following figures below:

pauseface

Fig 1: PAUSE no longer just freeze-frames a scene; instead, the frame becomes static-y and annoying lines appear on it.

rew

Fig 2: FAST FORWARD and REWIND no longer allow jumps to arbitrary points in the video. Instead, a long rewind operation would require stopping the video and then clicking “rewind.” While rewinding at high speed, the video is not visible, so the user just has to guess as to their position in the film.

blue

Fig 3: Starting a video: if the video has not been previously rewound, the viewer will only see the blank VHS screen. The user will have to spend a few minutes waiting for the “tape” to rewind.

showtape

Fig 4: The MENU is replaced with an image of the VHS videocassette, showing the current status of the tape through the transparent panels on the sides..

Conclusion:

This is a great way to increase immersion and brings the 1980s-videocassette experience into the modern era.

PROS: Allows cinephiles to get that warmer, richer analogue video experience of VHS, not the cold and harshly-compressed “digital” video that we are subjected to today.

CONS: May require sitting at least 30 feet back from your 50+ inch television in order to properly approximate the size of a 1980s television.

 

Be tricked into learning with hybrid educational games! But don’t use the word “edutainment” this time.

Background:

There have, in the past, been many attempts to make educational games. With the exception of a few unusual successes (with The_Oregon_Trail perhaps being the earliest), these “edu-tainment” titles have generally been colossal failures.

The proposal:

However, there is no reason that the fusion of gameplay and education must necessarily result in a terrible game.

Here, we consider a few ways to sneak educational elements into games without ruining the gameplay (and in some instances, the educational element is what inspires the gameplay in the first place!).

Proposal 1: Space Shooter + Spelling: (Galaga + Scrabble)

spaceships-all


Fig 1:
This is a traditional arcade space shooter. The player controls the gray ship at the bottom of the screen, and various alien invaders menace the ship. These invaders are also marked with letters, like Scrabble tiles. The player’s goal is to spell high-scoring words by shooting ships in the right order to spell a high-scoring word.

completed_words

Fig 2: Words that the player spells are listed on the screen (optionally with a definition, to make this game suitable for SAT / GRE preparation).

The 1991 game “Wordtris” (a Tetris spinoff) is somewhat similar to this—it’s like Tetris, except that the player’s goal is to spell words (instead of creating horizontal lines). Screenshots here: https://www.google.com/search?q=wordtris

Proposal 2: Retrofit any game genre into an “educational” game by taking over the loading screens

Most games have occasional loading screens. This would be an easy place to provide useful educational facts about the world without impacting gameplay at all.

For example, below are a screenshot of a loading screen from Dark Souls II and a corresponding “edutainment” version of the same loading screen.

dark_souls_item_textFig 3: Loading screens in many games show you gameplay tips (e.g. “Press X to use the grappling hook”) or world-building information. The example seen here is from Dark Souls II.

world_facts_item_text

Fig 4: Instead of showing fictional tips, a loading screen could provide actual facts about the world. This might lead to both an increase in bar trivia performance and in occasionally motivating a player to learn something more about the world.

Proposal 3: A survival game where friend / foe is determined by text

In this survival sim / zombie game proposal, one’s fellow survivors are marked with a sentence that changes every hour.

For uninfected individuals, this would be some random true statement (“The United States was originally composed of 13 states.”). However, if a survivor is seen with a false statement (“Aquatic snakes are known as eels“), it means they have been infected by the zombie virus.

Conclusion:

Although “edutainment” is not a well-regarded genre, perhaps it can be revitalized with techniques similar to the examples above.

PROS: Helps train the next generation of leaders, scientists, and artists.

CONS: Possibly the next generation of leaders, scientists, and artists will be made obsolete by a huge all-knowing robot brain, thus rendering these efforts futile.

 

 

Stop coddling students with “participation” awards just for showing up—instead, have them traverse a scorching desert and deadly volcano!

The issue:

One common criticism of education, both at the grade school level and at the college level, is that students don’t come away with practical skills.

Although it was once sufficient to know basic math, reading, and writing, more is generally expected in the modern era.

Proposal:

As a supplement to traditional teaching, a month-long “capstone” obstacle-course project is added to the curriculum.

This would involve students working in teams and/or individually to accomplish a complicated practical goal, one example of which is described below.

terrain

Fig 1: In the proposal here, students would need to:

  1. Construct a boat to float across the river (1)
  2. Figure out how to climb up the cliff (2) without falling
  3. Create shelter and build a fire in the forest (3)
  4. Successfully apply navigate skills to traverse the harsh desert (4)
  5. Work together to climb the desolate and possibly snow-covered mountain slope (5)
  6. Finally, avoid being melted by the volcano (6) and locate their diplomas somewhere near the peak

diploma

Fig 2: After ascending the volcano, students are deemed to have sufficient life skills to graduate.

PROS: Teaches valuable survival and/or practical skills.

CONS: Sub-par lava traversal methods may reduce graduation rates.