Researcher Sara Grimes discusses the intersection of games and outdoor play. On the one hand, games can provide environments of exploration unavailable to urban youth and the children of suburban sprawl. On the other, games can encourage kids to look at their own environments in a new way. As Grimes writes, “digital games can perform a similar function to seeing stones by subverting the mundane character of things like streetlamps and trash bins.” As a kid, I lamented not having the ultimate backyard of adventure as pictured in Bill Watterson’s comic Calvin and Hobbes. However, I do remember running around my house in endless circles, swinging a plastic sword while combating imaginary enemies and collecting power-ups. Taking what I had learned from games about the escalating difficulty and intricacy of level design, my first lap around the house would be only on the ground, while subsequent laps required climbing on my swing set or backtracking counter-clockwise around the house. Video games fundamentally shaped the way I saw and still see the world around me, so I highly support Grimes’ call for discovering new places of play.
I’ve always been fascinated by the maps of theme parks. Not only do they help people find their way around, but they tell a story of the park. The theme park maps archive, which I just discovered via Lifehacker, offers a historical perspective of the United States’ most popular amusement parks. Choosing any single park, you can look how it has changed in time. It’s interesting to watch the parks undergo changes as rides get renamed, new sections are built, and stage shows are replaced by more thrill rides. It’s also neat to see those things that have not changed—the timeless elements of a park that give it its distinct character. So, I implore you to browse the archives for your favorite park and reminisce as you watch it change through history.
GameSetWatch introduced a cool latecomer to today’s round-up: the Avatar Machine. A project by artist Marc Owen, the Avatar Machine projects a third-person perspective of the individual wearing Owen’s suit onto a VR head-mounted display, so they see themselves in the environment. Owen states that “the system potentially allows for
a diminished sense of social responsibility, and could lead the user to demonstrate behaviors normally reserved for the gaming environment.” A better technical explanation of an earlier implementation can be found on We Make Money Not Art.