Game UIs I would like to try

2020-06-25

Thoughts as a user interface

Imagine this (da-da-tish): the NeuraLink BMI has been around for a while now, and you got one last Xmas. You missed the chicken (turkey is too dry) roast, because you were still sedated. There weren’t any side-effects. Well, there weren’t any severe side-effects: now, whenever you stub your toe, you see Keanu Reeves’ face. Bill & Ted Keanu, not Johnny Mnemonic Keanu, although the latter would have been apt. Also, you can’t taste gooseberries anymore. Which is not a big deal, because they’re sour as hell. Like I said, not severe.

You like to play games, and a new Prey is out. It’s the usual you-don’t-see-them-coming, then bang-bang, but then this: they can smell your thoughts. (DirectBrain was bundled with the latest DirectX and all of a sudden game developers all over the world could put audio and visuals right in your head. And if you’ve read and agreed to the extra privacy policy which no-one ever reads but always agrees to, they now had access to your thoughts.)

The alien which was a suitcase a moment ago has now taken its true form, and staring you down, gazing into your pinprick irises. Are you afraid of me? Do you want to hurt me? Think carefully, otherwise you’ll be her chicken roast.

We could also be a bit less exciting and more mechanical and just have the game know which story or NPC conversation avenues you want to explore by thinking it. Instead of click-click, you just think “yup”, “no”.

Wearables as a user interface

Your favourite RPG has downloadable recipes for 3D-printing your character’s accessories. The Ring of Everlasting Fire is gone from the character inventory where it’s been since v1, but you can now print it (if you use red filament, of course) and slip it onto your finger.

The game knows you’re wearing the ring, because your Kinect can see it on your hand. Or, the game’s companion mobile app looks at you through your phone’s camera, or your webcam. Or, if BMI tech is here already, you would have seen yourself slipping the ring on, and the game would know. The game would also know if you try and secretly slip it off again behind your back, because… thoughts.

Home as a user interface

Monomi Park founder Nick Popovich recently talked about making games that stand out and survive, but there was a portion of the talk that was so good and could have had it’s own video: A place to call Home. Go and watch it quickly if you hadn’t.

Even though Nick says that his definition of home isn’t a literal home base in your game, I’m saying it could be. You’re playing GTA VI and Trevor Philips is back. When he enters the safe house, it is your house which you lovingly and painstakingly captured last week using display.land’s photogrammetry app. If it’s GTA Online, your friends can come and visit too, and admire your new wall rugs.

Quantified Self as a user interface

The better you do, the better your avatar does. Have you covered your 10,000 steps today? Recycling Trevor Philips for a minute, next time he runs, he doesn’t get out of breath quite so quickly. Did you log your meals today? Lots of greens? Well, Trevor has a healthier complexion and is quicker-witted and this affects NPCs in interesting ways. Did you put some savings aside this month? Trevor can afford those new kicks he’s always wanted.

Reverse/inverted Tamagotchi, anyone?

Conclusion

I’m aware we started off a bit with a moonshot idea, but the other things discussed here can be implemented today. I’m sure I’m by no means the only or first person to have come up with these ideas (we never are), and I’m sure there are areas of AR which already cover some of these topics.

Which UIs would you like to try? Let me know.