If you needed first-aid supplies, you'd probably go to your local pharmacy or drugstore, right? It only makes sense.
And when you're playing a character in a video game, if that character needs first-aid supplies, you tend to loot them from a hospital or pharmacy. It makes a post-apocalyptic kind of sense.
Of course, there are usually fewer obstacles to getting items from the store down the street in your real world than there are from dragging your character into a resource-laden location in a video game. The digital version is likely to have enemies around who want to rip your pixelated head off. So wouldn't it be easier to get up, go to the drugstore down the street, and pick up supplies for your avatar there?
That's the kind of thing that Robert Bowling says he wants to get into his newest project, The Human Element. In an interview with GamesIndustry International, Bowling explains that when he says "cross-platform experience," he means it:
Say you're at home, you're playing Human Element, you're out in the world, you get injured. You're hurt and you need medical supplies. You don't want to risk going out to forage in the game world, or maybe you did and can't find anything, but you know that there's a pharmacy four miles down the road in the real world. So you go out and you're out and about in the real world. You open up Human Element on your iPad. We're overlaying the world of Human Element onto the Googlemaps API, FourSquare business API, we're taking your real world and merging it with your game world. So now you're checking into places in the real world and you're scavenging in those locations for supplies that are dynamic to those locations. We can do that anywhere there's GPS map data.
You're feeding those supplies back to your character in Human Element - these are not independent experiences, they're additive to each other. The cool thing is you can form alliances. So, say my girlfriend doesn't want to play the console experience but she wants to play on iPad - she likes that experience. If we have an alliance she can play the resource management game, that scavenging mechanic, and she can be benefitting my game by sharing supplies with my survivors.
We have reached the point of technological innovation where new game ideas can be very cool and fairly worrying all at the same time. In one way, it's fantastic that the answer to, "I need bandages" can be, "go to CVS!"
Of course, I also live down the street from a Walgreens and a couple of grocery stores. Would I see different benefits to my game characters by walking into one over the other, the same way I might get different pre-order bonuses when I buy a game from varying retailers?
There are a lot of interesting possibilities to be had from bringing the real world and a virtual one together. In theory, it's a great idea to tie real-world locations and solutions into virtual problems. In practice, though, it could potentially create more problems for gamers than it solves, depending on how it all ties together and how reliant on owning multiple devices in-game success becomes.
But Human Element isn't due until at least 2015. Which means the worries can be stowed away for another day. In the meantime, that gives me three years to be sure I live near shops likely to be full of zombie apocalypse survival supplies. Just in case.
Robert Bowling: The Human Element [GamesIndustry International]