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How experimental games dumped us into a giant trash bag with a flashlight

March 11,2017 21:10

Fancy yourself a vinyl-scratching master? vinylOS is a bullet-hell shooter that lets you spin a record to rotate your spaceship, then quickly "scratch" the record back and forth to fire a bullet at the enemies coming at you. (All images are created by ...

Opposable Thumbs —

Fancy yourself a vinyl-scratching master? vinylOS is a bullet-hell shooter that lets you spin a record to rotate your spaceship, then quickly "scratch" the record back and forth to fire a bullet at the enemies coming at you. (All images are created by a projector above the white record.) Play is much smoother than that description suggests.

To play Alt.Ctrl IGF award winner Fear Sphere, you have to crawl into an inflated plastic bag, then hold a giant flashlight and aim it at the dome's walls. This projects a small, lit-up bit of your view. You then spin around in the real world to illuminate objects in the game. Another player outside of the dome asks you questions and directs you based on what you see. (Think Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes.)

How Fear Sphere looks from inside of its weird, plastic dome. The effect in motion is pretty convincing.

Close the Leaks has four players controlling the movement and rotation of a spaceship by letting their hands off their own tube. This pushes air out of one of four rockets on the ship, but it also slightly depletes the ship's oxygen. The group must not only manage combined movement but also make sure not to waste precious air.

Emotional Fugitive Detector uses face-tracking sensors in an intriguing way. One person sits in front of a sensor and must give hints to a person sitting outside the box of a certain emotion. If the person in the box moves their facial muscles too much, an alarm goes off and both players lose. The person outside the box must perceive which of four emotions is being represented and press the correct button to save the other player's life. While the face-sensing stuff was wonky, the concept and execution were still fun to play with.

Sam Machkovech

Orpheus Quest combines Guitar Hero, lasers, and a harp. Strum the right laser string to the beat with your fingers.

UFO Bellies asks teams to smash colors to match whatever color flashes on the screen. (Words for other colors appear to trick players.) For secondary colors, the teams must match the right pair (red+blue, etc.) to proceed.

Objects In Space can be played solely with a computer, but if you want the "pure" experience, you can build your own wired kit—and the cool part is, you can go to their site and download instructions to make your own!

"It controls more like a submarine," I was told by a demonstrator, and that bore out. Every button and knob controlled some different aspect of defenses, missile launches, rocket thrusts, and more.

Objects In Space wouldn't boot until I turned this key, attached to some fun, fuzzy dice.

More buttons for navigation. I got a small taste of the game's apparently expansive mission-based structure. Objects In Space was probably my favorite of the whole Alt.Ctrl exhibit.

In Zombie Crawler, you pull an endless loop of carpeted pedals to move forward—then slam your hands on either side to dodge left or right.

Another angle of the rig and its "attack" buttons.

This rhythm game mapped its pedals to real-life objects, which I had to slap when mice ran over them. (This, conveniently, played to the rhythm of a song, full of obnoxious "meow" effects.)

A peek at what players saw in VR.

Sand Garden combines kinetic sand and a Kinect 2.0 IR tracker. Create mounds of sand based on the demands of the on-screen world, to produce woods, lakes, or mountains as your settlers demand. Think of it like a Play-Doh version of Doshin the Giant.

Cylindrus lets up to four people control a small LED bulb (their spaceship) as it moves around a full sphere and shoots at some obstacles while dodging others.

Another Cylindrus angle.

Schadenfreude makes players communicate with each other using pads of paper with clues on them. Players try to win mini-games mastered by one button presser (as if your group were actually in an elevator). The cramped-space part isn't required, however.

SAN FRANCISCO—The newest tradition at the Game Developers Conference is the "Alt.Ctrl" pavilion. Every year, hackers gather to present some of the weirdest games ever made. Some count as "video games," while others eschew screens and even computers for content that only barely qualifies as "digital entertainment."
We managed to play nearly all of the 20 games on show, and this gallery explores some of our favorites. It's also worth clicking through for more specific explanations of the weird content we got to go hands-, eyes-, and bellies-on with.
While you're here, don't forget to check out Ars' visits to past Alt.Ctrl exhibits.

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