Here´s a very interesting work by Cati Vaucelle from MIT, done together with artists Shada / Jahn . Fully aware, within their intro and documentation, that there are addicted WOW players out there – and this is not common sense talking about a life threatening addiction rather than “played a little too much recently” – they have designed “an immersive architectural solution for the advanced WOW (World of Warcraft) player that provides and anticipates all life needs.” The WOW Pod is a very creative, playful but still serious approach to gaming, because it deals with the materialistic resources of gamers. Their avatars – individually designed, powerful, ultimate fighting and travelling machines – never get tired or hungry. So do the people on the other side of the screen. But lunch breaks can break the neck of your level 78 paladin, because untill now the system is mostly unaware of its most important component, the human being. Awareness beyond keyboard input is one of the most interesting topics of the future. Especially keeping in mind, that real and virtual worlds are on their way to melt together…
One nice idea dealing with this big issue of system awareness presented, is the snack packs (see foto with barcode o the pack), which can be scanned and cooked (!) within the WOW Pod. Finally there is an alert within the game, that lunch is ready (no triangle, no Mummy yelling, but a cool slogan by the character) . “When the food is ready, the system automatically puts the character in AFK (‘Away From Keyboard’) mode to provide the gamer a moment to eat. ” And maybe you could even go one step further, that there is a decent period in the game where (virtual) you are in a blue glow while (real) you are eating and can´t be harmed. You shouldn´t cheat, just eat, of course :)
The toilet within that WOW Pod maybe is not the best idea (can not be implemented to productive and sexy systems) but the project obviously is not intended to be marketed or whatever. It`s mind opening to the many challenges and chances for developing immersive experiences. Usability experts, game designers, sociologists, parents, gamers, almost everybody can and should be integrated to this discourse. It is not only about polygons, performance and power. Real-virtual-augmented-immersive-world-games-one-day-concepts will have to be more aware, than the old school. What needs are there, how can we track them, how can systems react … Maybe the term serious games should be implemented also to the “pure fun” games, thus taking all this basical needs-stuff more serious. Nintendo is on a good way, when the system asks you for a little break from time to time when you are playing it.
“Please, do not use me for an hour or two”.