Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Apparently this is real old news but it’s new to me and it makes me happy so I want to blog about it. About a year and a half ago a team of researchers at the National University of Singapore made a human Pacman game. Players wear VR goggles and see big cookies in the middle of the road that they run over to gobble up Pacman style. You can choose to be either a Pacman or a ghost and run around with your friends eating virtual cookies or chasing the ones who are eating virtual cookies. Does this sound like the best thing ever or what?

This product could change my life. I would want to leave the house and socialize with other people on a more regular basis. I would possibly even run a little bit which would not be a bad thing. I would stay outdoors for extended periods of time on a regular basis rather than the few days a year when I actually go to a festival or the beach or something like that. I would be the envy of everyone who didn't have this game and might even make some new friends.

Think of the other games that could be brought back to life with this type of technology. We could hunt many a Wumpus, we could Dig various Dugs, and we could invade space. Think of what would happen if the virtual gaming opportunities grew to include RPG classics. We could actually run around town playing Zelda or Kings Quest and scavenge for random goodies on the way. Instead of arcades we could have open air parks dedicated to people running around with goggles on their heads in various teams completing any goal their little hearts desired. The Wii got gamers moving again but this would get people off their couches like never before. Imagine the glory. It would be a dream.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like I will be getting human Pacman or any other virtual game any time soon. The equipment costs 10K-20K and I think a PS3 is too expensive. It also seems that one would have to program certain geographic areas into the game so that you don’t bump into things like buildings so playing areas would be limited and there seems to be no way to avoid moving things like cars and buses. In a city environment this could be quite dangerous. Then again, if my park arcade idea catches on maybe we would be onto something. I wonder how you can register non-playing people on the monitor or do you just run into everyone who isn’t plugged into GPS? Then again, if only players are allowed in the park arcade then everyone would have some sort of GPS signal. Maybe I am getting closer to the ultimate solution.

While the drawbacks are obviously many, the fact that the technology exists and is being improved constantly is incredibly exciting. Maybe a version of human Pacman that is affordable and doesn’t cause you to bump into things will be available before I can no longer walk. Here’s to hoping.

This Hear of Stone, Rolling Stones- I love this song. It is so utterly mean and horrible. Last night I watched John Tucker Must Die (I know I know I planned to fall asleep but didn’t) and this song is like John Tucker except that they did break his heart of stone hahaha.

History of Lovers, Iron & Wine- This is off one of the Iron and Wine albums that I downloaded after I decided that I wanted to listen to as much of their music as possible and then haven’t listened to. It has a great beat and while you could dance to it you would look like a cracked out hippie. Note to self: perfect an unrivaled hippie dance before Pitchfork Festival.

Stupid Girl, Garbage- Really? Really? Did this actually come on and am I actually excited about hearing it as I never put it on purposefully? Both things are true. Man am I ever enjoying this song. I miss the 90s so much.


Monica said...

Stupid gi-irl Ah-ah! Stupid girl girl girl...

I would play virtual pacman SO MUCH and virtual super mario brothers. tetris would be hilarious. but mike tyson's punch out... not so much.

Jeff Roberts said...

Cool concept! I guess the whole bumping into each other thing is the biggest problem liability-wise. You could do like laser tag and set the game up in an old empty warehouse (with padded walls) and make all the objects in the game virtual, but if other people are in the warehouse with you, keeping folks from injuring each other would be challenging.

What if you could put each person in a separate room, with sort of a treadmill floor that moves in all directions, then blend everyone's actions into what you see in your goggles?

Kiyotoe said...

I'm down....As long as there's a virtual Donky kong!

What!? Jumping those barrels and grabbing man, see what you've done, now I'm all worked up.

bint alshamsa said...

I would give my left arm to be able to play Zelda like this! I hadn't heard about it so I'm glad you wrote this.

Michael C said...

I want one, I want one, I want one! How much fun would that be? I'd also like to play Pitfall as well as Pacman. Do you remember that one??

Natalie said...

Monica- I'm trying to imagine what virtual tetris would be like. You could spin all the little shapes and stack them in an imaginary box. Punch out would such major balls.

Jeff- Warehouse is a good idea. As long as the people were playing the same game their GPS would alert the other players of their position. It is the GPS that allows the ghosts to catch the Pacman. I like the separate room idea but it takes some of the social aspect away.

Kiyotoe- OMG! How awesome would that be. They could turn fire hydrants into barrels and people would be leaping through the streets.

Bint- I was stunned it was such an old story. It seems the whole world would have known!

Michael- Pitfall would also be great. You could play in a park and swing over monkey bars or those really slow sliding things. Wicked awesome.

Mom said...

Natalie -- "If you build it, they will come." Find some geeky engineer folks who will love this idea and create it.

Years ago, when I worked at MECC, we did some "envisioning the future" meetings and I envisioned people playing our Apple //e based historical simulations in virtual-reality (with much better graphics of course). It was way cool.

notfearingchange said...

Thanks for the stupid girl song - stuck in my stupid head!


RastaManErn said...

I don't know if you recall, but there used to be a VR game maybe 10-15 years ago. You got on a platform and put on a large clunky helmet, and were given a controller similar to the Wii's. The gameplay wasn't that great, but it was cool because of the technology.

Here, at least the headgear has gotten smaller, but it still seems like there are a LOT of bugs to work out. I was hoping for more after all this time.

CSG said...

I saw a video about pacman being played in NYC. I so wanted to play that too!

With Love, Fat Girl said...

Ever thought of staging your own human video games, with modest/humble beginnings? If you made it an annual thing, I'll bet that within a year you'll have sponsorship our your wazoo.

Call me for Hunt the Wumpus!

Dynamo360 said...

Oh wow... yeah that would be so cool! My friend says the only thing that would be cooler is real life Grand Theft Auto. *roll eyes* I think she's joking, lol.

Natalie said...

Mom- I would certainly take a virtual trip down the Oregon Trail but would be kind of upset when I got bitten by a snake or contracted typhoid. Then again, I suppose you wouldn’t have virtual pain to go with it.

Notfearing-Maybe if enough people get excited we can pool our money to buy some really expensive equipment and then all take vacations to some deserted beach and play. I think I may be onto something.

Ern- I do remember that game. You would think they could get it right by now. Maybe they just don’t care enough. They should. It would be highly in demand. Maybe people assume serious gamers don't have enough friends to make it feasible.

CSG- Really? I wonder who you had to sleep with to get in that test group!

WLFG- That is an idea. We could make some kind of impromptu course on a beach somewhere. The ideas are brewing. You’ll be first on my list for Wumpus adventures!

Dynamo- That reminds me that I am sad because I accidentally returned my copy of GTA San Andreas to Netflix and I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will send it back. If they don’t I may have to resort to your friend’s idea.