In a Few Years, This Will Feel Normal

by | Mar 31, 2022 | Living in the Future | 0 comments

Once upon a time, there were games you played with rocks on a table. Then carved pieces on a table. Eventually, people developed little cardboard mats that allowed games to be played without having to carve up a whole new table for each. More recently, games ditched the physical realm altogether and went entirely digital.

Digital games are great. I love digital games; don’t get me wrong (and my Steam stats will back me up on this).

But sometimes, you just want to handle something physical.

BUT the digital aspect is just so darned convenient. Maybe you love the way a game plays but don’t want to shuffle six decks, sort little colored cubes, and do corporate accounting between turns.

Enter the hybrid game.

There are plenty of ways to use digital media to enhance a game. The card randomizers for Dominion are one example. Discord for various gaming uses is another.

But this isn’t about that. I’m talking about games where the physical and digital elements are each part and parcel to the experience.

One genre that seems to have embraced this with some solid success is mystery games.

A shining example is the Chronicles of Crime series of detective mysteries. The game box contains decks of cards with types of evidence and pictures of suspects, a rudimentary game board, and larger cards that represent locations in the city (each edition centers around a different city and/or time period).

Here’s the fun part.

The story is all driven by the companion app. All the locations, evidence, and potential suspects have QR codes on them, allowing you to input an incredible number of combinations to investigate who knew what, when, and why, all to figure out the murderer and their motive.

Here’s the BEST part.

You get to investigate crime scenes. Each is staged like a point-and-click game, with a cluttered scene filled with potential clues and red herrings. But unlike those clunky point-and-clicks, you scan your hunches from the cards into the app, allowing you to check blood stains, cell phones, paperwork, desk drawers, trash cans, etc. Then you can talk to your crime lab, coroner, or criminal profiler about evidence and suspects, filling in details until you have enough confidence to arrest your suspect.

Another great use of this concept of hybrid digital gaming is in mystery box games. These come in various different flavors from different game companies, but the common thread is that you’re given a pile of evidence, usually heavy on paperwork but often including little knicknacks, too. Then, over the course of usually a couple hours, you and your friends cross-check evidence, test alibis, and decipher codes to discover the guilty party.

Some of these boxed mysteries include integrated online content. For some it can be as simple as an online portal that has a virtual safe to crack or some additional evidence (sometimes voice, sometimes just digital photos) to expand on the box’s contents. The most elaborate my wife and I have seen was one that actually produced vintage-style animated shorts (think Steamboat Willie era Mickey Mouse), but with messages hidden in the frames.

Lemme tell you, nothing makes you feel like you’re investigating a mystery like frame-by-framing video footage trying to get it to stop on a subliminal message or playing back audio in reverse to hear a satanic-sounding warning.

As digital media becomes more and more second nature, this sort of cross-platform play will only get to be more common. In the 1980’s, hardly anyone knew how to code. By the turn of the century, Triple-A games had become bloated behemoths as legions of programmers toiled away on them. Nowadays, certain lighter-weight applications are far more accessible to entrepreneurs outside mainstream software development.

Be ready to see even more games straddling the digital and physical realms in the future!

Check out Chronicles of Crime from Lucky Duck Games

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