The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

Category: Games

Solve your getting-research-participants problem in one easy step with the medium of VIDEO GAMES. Possibly even ethical, who can really say!

The issue:

Gathering data for scientific studies can be difficult. So why not tap into the world of VIDEO GAMES to conduct experiments on willing participants for no additional monetary cost!

Normal scenario:

  • Researcher: “I wonder what factors lead to a person trusting Person A instead of Person B?”

or:

  • Researcher: “I suspect that—all else being equal—ugly defendants in murder trials are convicted twice as often as attractive defendants”

Then, a ton of work has to be done to design a study and recruit participants for it.

Plus, people are always going to nit-pick your conclusions, for example: “what if ugly criminals are also just worse at committing crimes than attractive criminals? Then you’d expect them to be convicted more often, too, thus invalidating your results!”

But, maybe we can short circuit this process AND get scientifically-valid conclusions!

Proposal:

Instead of making researchers talk to a bunch of undergraduates and/or figure out how to get a sufficient number of participants over the Internet, we can perform research via video games.

A researcher would come up with a scenario that they’d like to test, for example:

  • “People with annoying voices are less likely to be helped by a random passerby.”

Then, they’d set up a scenario like:

  • Record both annoying and not-annoying voices for a character in a game.
  • Later, see if the player is motivated to save the character from falling into a volcano / being eaten by a carnivorous plant / falling behind on their car payments, etc.

This could be done for a variety of scenarios, as shown in Figures 1 through 3.

suspects

Fig. 1: We can randomly generate a huge variety of different faces to test how players’ behavior is determined by appearance. For example, upon finding out that the middle guy here is a murderer, does the player let it slide (“well, he had it coming”) or turn him into the police? Maybe we’ll find that EVERY triangle-headed individual is let off the hook, which would raise interesting sociological questions.

 

final_candidates

Fig. 2: Here is a feature that can be added to any game where the player accumulates money: one of the characters above steals money from the player, but there is evidence implicating all three characters, so it’s difficult to determine the actual perpetrator. The culprit is randomly chosen for each player, and is equally likely to be the colonel, the horse or an octopus. However, players are FIVE TIMES more likely to accuse the octopus, as seen in this fabricated figure!

Fig. 3: For a Cold War spy thriller game, any one of these three characters might be a spy. Despite the fact that all three characters have essentially equivalent behaviors (randomly chosen) and backgrounds, we might find that the horse is usually executed when he is discovered to be a Soviet agent, while players allow the toaster to escape back across the Iron Curtain—thus revealing a widespread callous disregard toward the welfare of horses.

PROS: Probably could be a useful research tool!

CONS: Expensive! Requires very specific programming and art expertise.

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Never be unfashionable again, with these five amazing 3d-modeled clothing tips! You’ll never believe tip number three!

Background, part 1:

Clothing catalogues occasionally provide a summary of the clothes that a model in an advertisement is wearing; usually this will be a piece of text that looks something like Get this Look: Jeans $100, Shirt $40, Weird Socks $10.”

This is a good system: the company can sell you more clothing this way, and the purchaser gets a pre-vetted complete outfit that (presumably) looks good.

Background, part 2:

“Open world” games often allow the player to customize the look and clothing / armor / random accessories of their character.

One example of this is Grand Theft Auto, where a player can buy hundreds of distinct clothing items for their player character.

Proposal:

Strangely, no games have yet implemented the (seemingly obvious) step of adding an in-game “Get this Look” button that would:

  1. Confirm the player’s clothing measurements
  2. Generate an order online for correctly-sized versions of the clothes that the player’s character is wearing at the moment.
  3. Mail those clothes to the player’s home address.

This could be made even easier if players could set their clothing sizes in a common interface (Figure 1), which would be shared between games.

get_this_look

Fig. 1: “Clothing Size” (bottom left, highlighted in blue) could be another system setting for a user, next to “WiFI settings” and “Sound.”

Conclusion:

This seems like it’s almost an inevitable feature of games in the future. People will probably wonder why it took so long!

Since it’s already profitable to sell virtual cosmetic items in online game, the sale of actual clothing (which can be printed / ordered on-demand) for human beings should be a simple extension of that idea.

 

Fig. 2: When selecting a shirt for one’s avatar in a game, a “BUY IT NOW FOR YOURSELF” button will appear next to it.

 

dark-souls

Fig. 3: Some games—particularly ones in futuristic or medieval settings—would be more difficult for designers to adapt as modern clothing.

 

duck-head

Fig. 4: Strange novelty outfits are a staple of character customization. Now it’s easier than ever to bring those options into the real world.

PROS: Adds new and amazing fashion options, just a click away!

CONS: All your old clothes will seem TOO UNFASHIONABLE now. May not work for 2D games.

Sitting down all day is bad for you! Instead, wriggle through the crawlspace under your house and possibly fall down the stairs in a mad dash to run between rooms of your house while playing this new insanely immersive simulation game! Also, it makes your house into a spaceship.

Background:

There are a few cell phone games that use real-world GPS data to control your in-game character.

The most well-known are probably the two games by Niantic, Pokemon Go and Ingress, in which you physically walk around in order to move your in-game character.

However, no one has yet implemented a smaller-scale version of this idea.

Proposal:

This proposal is for a simulation game that is played on a portable device (probably a cell phone) in which you are the pilot of a large crew-operated vehicle; perhaps a train, a 17th-century galleon, or a futuristic starship.

The vehicle will have several physically-separated “stations” that all need to be manned (by you!). For a galleon, this could include following: the wheel, the sails, an anchor, and the cannons.

In order to operate each station, you (the player) will have to physically run around your house to different locations. Your cell phone GPS will figure out where you are, and will give you the appropriate controls.

  • So if you want to operate the sails, you have to run upstairs to the “sails” station in the second floor hallway.
  • If you want to operate the cannons, you have to go to the “cannon” station in the kitchen, etc.

See Figure 1 for an example of a possible house that this game could be played in, and Figure 2 for an example of a spaceship-ification of the same floor plan.

plan-1-house.png

Fig. 1: A regular floor plan for a house. We will turn this into a spaceship; each different room is designated (by the player) as being a different crucial spaceship component (see Figure 2).

plan-2-spaceship.png

Fig. 2: We have overlaid a spaceship onto this one-story house. NASA guidelines strongly discourage the conversion of a 2-bedroom house into a spaceship, due to the unsuitable floor plan. See artist’s rendition of this architectural fiasco in Figure 3.

spaceship-artists-rendition.png

Fig. 3: Although this spaceship has a terrible layout and extremely poor atmospheric handling, it may be the best that could be done given the layout constraints (see Figure 2).

Addressing GPS issues

Realistically, GPS may not have the required resolution. It also has a hard time with elevation, so it might not be able to report whether you were on the first or second floor of a multi-story dwelling. It might be possible to use WiFi signal strength to fix this, but we also have a more low-tech version that should work.

Instead of using the GPS at all, we just draw a set of symbols that can be easily identified by the cell phone camera.

For example:

  • Draw a triangle on a plain piece of paper. Put that piece of paper in your laundry room. Now it’s the “engine room.”
  • Draw a circle on a piece of paper. Put it in your kitchen. Now it’s the “control room.”
  • Etc.

So when you travel to the correct room in your house, you briefly hold the cell phone camera up to the marked piece of paper, and the phone then knows which room you’re in.

Of course, someone could cheat by putting all the cards together on their desk, but that’s probably not worth worrying about.

We could also use proximity-sensing NFC-enabled cards to prevent having to use the camera, but this is a much less low-tech solution than drawing a triangle on a sheet of paper.

Bonus possibly actually-useful feature:

Instead of being totally frivolous, this game could actually incentivize you to perform useful real-world tasks! Useful tasks that involve walking around a home could include the following:

  • Replace your home’s fire alarm batteries
  • Find the emergency natural gas line shutoff (and the wrench you might need to close the valve)
  • Find the emergency water heater shutoff
  • Check your home for poor drainage around the foundation
  • Water your plants

More difficult tasks:

  • Water a lawn
  • Mow a lawn
  • Re-roof your house (this is the equivalent of taking your galleon into dry dock to scrape barnacles off the hull). (For advanced players only)

PROS: Brings new exercise opportunities to otherwise indolent game aficionados.

CONS: May be difficult to integrate the location-determining aspect without ruining the flow of the game. People would probably also trip and fall down the stairs while playing it.

Dust off your 3D glasses (or excavate them from the geological strata that they are buried beneath) for this new multi-versions-of-a-movie plan that is definitely here to stay and not a gimmick!

Background:

3D glasses  provide the ability to put two totally separate images on a screen at once. Normally, the technology this is used to provide a stereo-3D effect (Figure 1).

But we could use this same technology to show subtly (or entirely!) different films to different groups of people in an audience.

glasses1

Fig. 1: Each lens lets through a specific type of light. Here, the colored lenses separate out red and green light.

Proposal:

Instead of everyone’s glasses having both a left and a right lens, we can instead supply a LEFT/LEFT set of glasses and a RIGHT/RIGHT set of glasses, as seen in Figure 2. (We could also apply this idea to three groups—imagine another audience member with a BLUE/BLUE set of glasses.)

players

Fig. 2: One person would get a pair of glasses that was only the “left” lens, and the other would get only the “right” lens. Now we can display a different image to moviegoers (or game players) #1 and #2.

Possible applications in film:

  • In horror movies, one group of people could get the “ultra gory and horrifying” version of a film, while the other group gets a tastefully understated version with minimal blood and guts.
  • Additional horror movie option: for people who hate jump scares, the video footage accompanying the traditional “jump scare loud violin noise” could just be video of an actual violin, rather than of a cat and/or hockey-masked killer jumping out of a closet.
  • Two version of a film could be shown at the same time in a theater (for example, a PG-13-rated film and an R-rated film).
    • For example, if a film is rated R for brief nudity, the PG-13 version of the film could be generated by adding a bunch of computer-generated tumbleweeds. Ratings problem solved!
  • In a Sherlock-Holmes-style mystery, some people are annoyed by the fact that it’s usually impossible to “play along” with the mystery solving—instead, you wait until the detective reveals the obscure clues at the very end. With this “two movie” approach, the crucial evidence could be pointed out (e.g. with a red circle / arrow), so that the viewers would know which evidence Sherlock Holmes thought was important. But if you didn’t care about that, you could still watch the original cut!

* For the benefit of people with face blindness (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosopagnosia), a hovering name tag could be added above each actor’s head (like the floating name tag present in many multiplayer games). This would also help normal people in shows with a large cast of characters (like Game of Thrones or Arrested Development).

Possible applications in games:

  • You could have a game in which player #1 has the controller, but can only see a limited view of the world, while player #2 has no controller, but can view critical on-screen information that is not visible to player #1. For example, player #2 could have a map, or perhaps be able to see certain invisible walkways / invisible enemies / secret passages, etc.

scary-more

Fig. 3a: In the haunted house movie above, we want to only show the full Grim Reaper to one portion of the audience members (the other viewers should see the glowing eyes but not the specter itself). See figure 3b for a description of how this is done with a traditional set of red/green glasses.

scary-both

Fig. 3b: A colorized version of 3a, ready for 3D-glasses viewing. Yellow = shown to all viewers. Green = only shown to the “right lens glasses” viewers. In this case, the flying Grim Reaper thing will only be visible to a green lens-wearer. See figure 3c for specific images.

scary-red

scary-green

Fig. 3b: Top: “red lens” view where only the eyes of the haunting specter are visible. Bottom: “green lens” view where the entire Grim Reaper is visible.

PROS: Creates additional jobs in post-production. Allows multiple versions of a film to coexist without compromising a director’s original vision.

CONS: Prevents the use of 3D. May increase production costs.

Footnote: Existing applications for console games:

This “show two totally different images” technology has been commercially available for split-screen video games as a semi-standard feature of 2012-era 3D televisions.

The screen could be split (either vertically or horizontally), and one half of the screen would go to the “left” 3D channel while the other would go to the “right” 3D channel. In this fashion, players with left/left and right/right glasses (as seen in Figure 2) would get an entire full screen all to their own. (This also greatly reduced opportunities for screen-looking, although some light still leaks through.)

Unfortunately for this technology, both split-screen games and 3D televisions appear to be a thing of the past.

Increase your own enjoyment of a game by making everyone else’s experience WORSE. It’s all about relative enjoyment, after all.

Background:

One common method that video game developers use to make additional money beyond the initial sale of a game is to sell additional downloadable content (“DLC”) online.

This typically includes things like:

  • New missions and areas.
  • Ridiculous hats or costumes for your character.
  • Additional absurd guns / swords / etc.
  • Additional in-game currency
  • Various things to give the player an advantage in online play (derisively known as “pay-to-win”)

Proposal:

However, there remains one entirely untapped type of DLC: instead of just allowing a user to add features to their own game, what if a user could instead pay money to make someone else’s game worse?

Options include:

  • Set the player’s game language to Esperanto.
  • Provide your own new and annoying replacement sound effects (or voiced dialog!) for the game, which are then uploaded and overwrite the original game’s sound effects (example: bullet ricochet sound replaced by horse whinny).
  • Replace all character models by rubber ducks (Figure 1).
  • Flip all character models 180°, but nothing else changes.
  • In-game music re-recorded by the Portsmouth Sinfonia (check online for videos).

ruin_dlc.png

Fig. 1: Now that everyone’s head is a rubber duck, this space marine game takes on a different character.

Conclusion:

If you work at a major game development studio, you should make sure you get reassigned to the division that works on this sort of thing—it’s going to be a career-maker, for sure.

PROS: Brings in additional revenue, reviewers will love it (since they tend to like unusual or experimental things).

CONS: None!

Get exercise without meaning to while playing video games? The impossibly decadent dream of a depraved era.

Background:

There have been a number of historical attempts to bring exercise and video games together.

However, these have mostly required additional attachments and/or gimmicky peripherals in order to function.

But improved computer vision algorithms (plus the widespread availability of inexpensive cameras on laptops, televisions, and monitors) mean that it is now possible for the computer to monitor you and require certain exercises to be performed before some in-game actions can be taken.

Proposal:

This isn’t an entirely novel proposal—the “exercise bike / treadmill that makes your in-game character walk” is a staple of fitness-based modding.

The main difference here is that no equipment is required (except for a computer and camera). The user simply installs the game as usual and then is periodically requested to perform various types of exercise in order to advance in the game, which is then verified by the camera in order to discourage cheaters (Fig. 1).

(If we can trust the player not to cheat, then the camera would not actually be necessary.)

exercise-required-eye

Fig 1: The all-seeing computer eye will require you to do various exercises in order to progress in the game. (This could also potentially use the technology behind the Microsoft Kinect .) The red outline here simulates the computer’s interpretation of the player’s outline. It isn’t melting the player with a red laser or anything, even though that is probably a better interpretation of this specific image.

There are a limited number of exercises that would fit the bill for a setup like this, but it should be possible to think of a wide enough range of options to satisfy any gamer.

ex-required-path

Fig 2: Want to activate a “where to go next” marker for the mission that you can’t figure out? The computer will demand 20 jumping jacks before it forks over that information.

The exact amount of required exercise would be tailored to the fitness level of the game-player in question. It would generally be preferable to err on the side of “too easy” so as to avoid discouragement and/or heart attacks among players.

Additional examples:

  • “Fast-travel” between locations: do 10 lunges to simulate the effect of walking.
  • Respawn after being blown up: do 10 sit-ups to simulate the resurrection process.
  • Upgrade your laser rifle: do 10 pushups to simulate the effort of disassembling your weapon.
  • Recharge your magic spells: hold yourself in a “plank” position for 30 seconds to simulate the focus required for wizard-ness.
  • And many more!

Conclusion:

If you own a game company, or are a publisher, you should demand this in your next game!

PROS: Increases the fitness level of decadent citizens of post-industrial economies.

CONS: Might cause personal injury.

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.