The Future of Gaming

The Future of Gaming
Open-World Gaming

Spanner | 11 Nov 2008 12:35
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Software houses might be slow on the uptake, but LocoMatrix has already earned the attention of many in the mobile gaming community. Test games featuring basic treasure hunt premises have been put together for a variety of Java- and GPS-equipped cell phone handsets to showcase the potential of outdoor gaming. One prototype application requires players to gather in any open space, with mobile in hand and under the watchful eye of a Clarke Orbit satellite. The game system places virtual letters about the play area for the GPS-runners to collect and return to their allocated bases to spell out words. It's a simple concept, but it demonstrates how LocoMatrix could potentially create a massively multiplayer game through geostationary satellites, mobile phone networks and good old-fashioned leg work.

This scope of possibility - though mostly unrealized for the time being - is what Varhman's new framework is all about. Nearly everyone who's dabbled with the concept (and the game editor) has ideas on how to expand the platform.

"Generally, once people get the idea, they start thinking about the sorts of games that could be played," Vahrman says. "We've had everything from adaptations of arcade games to a giant simulation of going inside the human body a la Fantastic Voyage. There could also be a lot of fairly simple games that challenge player's abilities for speed and competition. Maybe the LocoMatrix Olympics; pervasive games that take place over weeks and in many locations, and roleplaying fantasy games that incorporate the real world."

In short, Vahrman says, "my fantasy is to see people playing outside, becoming fit and healthy, where they're not dependent on insulin injections as a part of their daily life."


"I see a movement developing where there's an increasing interest in people going outdoors to play," he explains. "Take events like geocaching, and festivals like Come Out and Play, Hide and Seek, and igFest . I think we'll continue to see a steady increase in play, but I partially agree with others who've suggested that we haven't yet seen the killer game. That's a big opportunity for the right developer."

As fantastical as much of this might be right now, it's clearly on the cusp of possibility. With LocoMatrix, Vahrman and his team are laying the foundations for a new gaming system that's independent of platform; where the outside world is the programming engine, our arms and legs are the controllers and reality is the graphics processor. It might not be quite what my parents had in mind when they told me I should go outside and play, but 25 years later I might finally be tempted to take their advice.

"The Wii is brilliant," says Varhman. "It's shown players that they can stand up to play games. LocoMatrix will show them they can go outside and run around. It's obvious in a way. Why sit down and play on your mobile phone when it lets you be free?"

Spanner has written articles for several publications, including Retro Gamer. He is a self-proclaimed horror junkie, with a deep appreciation for all things Romero.

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