As soon as we all got smartphones, the board game as we know it died. We might still enjoy Scrabble, but it will probably be called Words with Friends, played with an acquaintance or a stranger miles away. Technology be damned, we just can’t pretend that the experience is anywhere near as socially visceral.
A company named SuperUber is making itself known for creating, for lack of a better term, digital board games (you could also call them art installations). Their latest project is OctoCloud, and it’s a clever, socially oriented mashup between foosball and Pong.
Each player holds their own Android phone while facing an octagon. This octagon has a terrain all its own--polygonal peaks and valleys--and then it’s projection-mapped with a digital skin. Using touchscreens, each player slingshots their ball across the screen to knock out pieces on the board.
“We needed a gesture that after a while people wouldn’t even look at the device anymore, and only watch the resulting action on the sculpture,” explains SuperUber’s Liana Brazil. “The design also creates a situation where people stand around the sculpture facing each other, which is important for the collaboration and social interaction.”
From the octagon itself to a simple interaction that allows players to look up from their screens, each element reinforces what makes board games great: face-to-face interactions. But from a technical standpoint, the neatest thing is that the game board isn’t just a monitor--some large, octogonal iPad stand-in. Rather, the ball actually interacts with the physics of the polygonal playfield.
“Each player’s shot goes up and down, accelerates and slows down according to the sculpture’s design,” Brazil tells Co.Design. “This blurs the line between physical and virtual worlds. We like to explore that integration.”
Of course, the same physics that makes this interaction so rich is also what makes it so rare. OctoCloud is a custom installation that can be mapped to all sorts of 3-D shapes, which means it’s a bit harder to set up than your average Parker Brothers title. Then again, it may be worth all the effort. A topographical version of Risk that acknowledged different advantages over strange terrain sounds pretty fantastic to me. You bring the Funyuns. I’ll supply a wide variety of dictator-inspired wardrobes.
[Hat tip: thecreatorsproject]