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Blog posts tagged as 'games'

Here & There influences

I’m going to tell you a little bit about the influences on Here & There, a project about representation of urban places, from when it began. It was warmly received when I first presented some corners of it back at Design Engaged in 2004, before Schulze & Webb existed. Here & There is a projection drawing from maps, comics, television, and games.

This particular version is a horizonless projection in Manhattan. The project page is here, where large prints of the uptown and downtown views can be seen and are available to buy.

I’ve been observing the look and mechanisms in maps since I began working in graphic design. For individuals, and all kinds of companies, cities are an increasing pre-occupation. Geography is the new frontier. Wherever I look in the tech industry I see material from architects and references and metaphors from the urban realm. Here & There draws from that, and also exploits and expands upon the higher levels of visual literacy born of television, games, comics and print.

The satellite is the ultimate symbol of omniscience. It’s how we wage wars, and why wars are won. That’s why Google Earth is so compelling. This is what the map taps into.

The projection works by presenting an image of the place in which the observer is standing. As the city recedes into the (geographic) distance it shifts from a natural, third person representation of the viewer’s immediate surroundings into a near plan view. The city appears folded up, as though a large crease runs through it. But it isn’t a halo or hoop though, and the city doesn’t loop over one’s head. The distance is potentially infinite, and it’s more like a giant ripple showing both the viewers surroundings and also the city in the distance.


Origins and sources

Some of my favourite maps are drawn by a British writer, walker and accountant named Alfred Wainwright. Phil Baines provides background:

“Wainwright was an accountant born in Lancashire who fell in love with the English Lake District and moved there to live and work. All his free time was spent walking the fells, and he began his series of seven ‘pictorial guides to the Lakeland Fells’ in 1952 as a way of repaying his gratitude to them. The work took 13 years.” (Type & Typography)

Wainwright’s walking maps are drawn to suit their context of use, the books are intended to be used while walking. As the reader begins their walk, the map represents their location in overview plan. As the walk extends through the map, the perspective slowly shifts naturally with the unfolding landscape, until the destination is represented in a pictorial perspective view, as one would see it from their standpoint.

Wainwright spread

This is a reversal of the Here & There projection. In Wainwright’s projection we stand in plan, and look into perspective. Wainwright’s view succeeds in open ground where one can see the distance… but in a city you can only see the surrounding buildings. Wainwright and Here & There both present what’s around you with the most useful perspective, and lift your gaze above and beyond to see the rest.

David Hockney presents a fantastic dissection of perspective in the film A Day on the Grand Canal with the Emperor of China or Surface Is Illusion But So Is Depth. He describes a very old painting from China which depicts a journey along the grand canal. I really like how he describes the scene as ‘making sense.’

He justifies a deviation from Western perspective, that to represent things as they strike your eye is not even functionally as good as some other interpretative distortions. In this painting in which there’s a grossly distorted perspective, in which there aren’t even any rules, it still makes sense because it changes how you put yourself in the painting, and that changes where you put yourself outside it.

Augmented reality

There is a element in the map, in the uptown view, of a bus. Its destinations in both directions are shown. (I love NY bus routes, the cross town super power!) This is to explore how augmenting the map with local information might work.


One of my intentions with the project is to make an exploration into way-finding devices. One of my favourite examples of augmented reality is from these American Road maps from 1905. The map is stored in a book, and good for only one route. In fact, it isn’t a map as we’d typically understand one.

American Road Maps 1905

Michaels, H. Sargent. Photographic Runs: Series C, Chicago to Lake Geneva to Delavan, Delavan to Beloit. Chicago: H. Sargent Michaels, 1905. Used with permission from Prof. Robert French, Osher Map library, University of Southern Maine, Owls Head Transportation Museum.

The book dates from before the national road sign infrastructure was introduced to American highways or inter-city roads. Each page is a photo of a junction, with every junction between the two cities included, and an arrow is drawn over the photo to say which direction to take. As the driver progresses along their route, they turn pages, each junction they arrive at corresponding to the one in the current photo. (Many thanks to Steve Krug for the sharing his discovery of these great pieces.)

First person to God games

I don’t like the way maps (in-game maps) work in most video games. They seem to break my flow of play, and locating one’s actor in the game isn’t satisfying. I’d love to see a first person or third person shooter where the landscape bent up to reveal a limited arc of the landscape in plan over distance. As a video game, the Here & There projection slides from Halo, through GTA into Syndicate, to end in SimCity.

game collage

Although I never played it, I’ve heard a lot about Luigi’s Mansion for the Nintendo GameCube. Luigi wonders around a haunted mansion and hoovers up ghosts with a vacuum cleaner. I heard about a mechanic in the game which involved a virtual Gameboy Advance in the game. Luigi could take it out and use it to inspect the world. The game played out in the third person with a view of Luigi in place, but I think when you look in the Advance, it gave a first person view from Luigi’s position. Well, if it didn’t, it should have done.

I know that in some special games the Gameboy Advance could be plugged into the GameCube, to be used as a special controller. It would be amazing to use the second screen in a controller for that first person perspective. Imagine if you could guide your actor around in third person and glance down at the screen in your hands for close inspection or telescopic sniping.

Powers and cities

Recently Matt Jones and Rod Mclaren discussed Jason Bourne and James Bond and how they use cities. Jones characterises Bourne in contrast to Bond:

“… in addition, Bourne wraps cities, autobahns, ferries and train terminuses around him as the ultimate body-armour”

For Bourne, the city is his power, Jones continues:

“A battered watch and an accurate U-Bahn time-table are all he needs for a perfectly-timed, death-defying evasion of the authorities.”

I like to talk about the projection as a superpower, the power to be both in the city and above it.

Last year Warren Ellis wrote an Iron Man arc called Extremis. As ever, fine stuff. And with great pictures from Adi Granov too.

Ellis, unsatisfied with controlling the Iron Man suit by normal means (sensors, or weeny joysticks in the gloves or something) as an exoskeleton (picture Ripley in the clumsy Powerloader), Stark must ingest the Extremis serum in order to match his enemy, Mallen, and prevent him from his destructive path into Washington. The serum welds Stark to his tech. It leaves him ‘containing’ the membrane-like ‘undersheath’ he uses to control the Iron Man suit. It is stored inside his bones.

Iron Man mind control

The final sequence of panels in the penultimate book has Stark wearing the Iron Man suit, setting off to confront his enemy, his recent transformation has left him with new powers…

Iron Man leaves to confront Mallen

“I can see through satellites now.”

What a thought! Within one field of view, to be both in the world and to see yourself in it. The power of looking through, and occupying, your own field of vision. Awesome.

What if the projection appeared inside location-aware binoculars? Hold them up, and live satellite images are superimposed in ‘the bend’ onto the natural view of the city as it lifts up into plan! You’d see the traffic and people that just pulled out of view into a side street from above mapped onto your natural view.

Timo Arnall posted a video showing a Google Streetview pan controlled with the digital compass inside the device:

It begins to reveal how Here & There might feel if it were moving beneath your feet.


I would like to thank both James King (art direction) and Campbell Orme (technical direction) for their tireless efforts in bringing this work to life. Email them and make them work on your stuff. They are talented, humane and brilliant designer/thinkers.

Art prints of Here & There have been produced in a limited run and can be purchased here. Please buy one and stick it on a wall.

RFID and forced intimacy

S&W is here in Oslo with Timo Arnall’s Touch project for an RFID hacking workshop (check out that hand-drawn antenna field map). Yesterday was introductions, learning about RFID as a technology, and some preliminary explorations.

The work group met for breakfast today, and we discussed promising interactions and potential projects. One of the topics that came up was RFID tag visibility.

I know it’s obvious to state it, but RFID tags are generally hidden. To read a tag, first you have to find it with your reader. Design can make the location of the tag obvious… but wouldn’t it be interesting to embrace the invisibility constraint? Could we take advantage of the seeking behaviour that has to occur?

Consider a car showroom. Imagine no salespeople there, and no prices on the cars. When you entered the showroom, you would be given a RFID reader. There would be an RFID tag, holding the price, hidden somewhere on each car. You’d have to find the rough location of the tag to read the price.

Okay, this would be enormously annoying. But it would force you to step closer to the car, to examine the wing mirror to see if a tag was there, get up close to the paint-work on the door. What would happen?

When you get bright lights and noises in films, you feel excited whether the narrative of the film is exciting or not. Playing Project Rub on the Nintendo DS, the blowing interaction forces you to get adrenalised. Your body is tricked. Maybe getting really close to the car would be a kind of forced intimacy. You would feel better disposed to the car whether you liked it or not, simply by virtue of almost hugging it.

Okay, that’s car showrooms. What about parties for teenagers? We made up a Spin the Bottle type game. Oh, and gave it a pirate theme.

The scenario is this: Everyone who comes to your house party gets a token that looks like a gold coin with an RFID tag in it (holding a unique ID). People at the party take turn with the RFID reader. They have to wear a pirate hat, and the reader looks like a buccaneer’s sword. Let’s say you have the sword. You press a button on the handle, and it chooses a random RFID tag. This is the tag you have to find, by going round to everyone at the party and sweeping them with the sword.

Now let’s say you’re a person with a coin. If you’re not too keen on the person wearing the pirate hat, you’d put the coin in your pocket, or under your collar, so it could be found quickly. But maybe if you fancy the person with the hat, you’d conceal the coin a little, to make it harder to find. Gosh. I think it could get a little bit sexy.

I like this game because it celebrates the invisibility of the RFID tags, the fact they have a short detection range, and that the range can be shortened with material. It’s a treasure hunt game, but it doesn’t matter whether you have the chosen coin or not–it can be flirty in any case. It supports social interactions (ahem) rather than displacing them.

We had other ludicrous game ideas: Croquet where the hoops had tags and the balls had readers, where the balls would speak what you had to do next. “You have taken 4 hits. Now get through hoop 2,” your ball would say. You wouldn’t need the rule book. We also considered playing penny football with RFID tags, the readers snapping onto the edges of the tables and recording the number of goals. They could show the score on LCD screens, and play cheering sounds whenever a goal was scored.

Both of these games feel as silly to me as Slapz, the electronic game that replaces the children’s game Red Hands (or “slaps”).

The forced intimacy treasure game feels just as silly, but much more fun.

Load New Commander (Y/N)?

Here we are! First post! I’m Matt, Jack will be posting here too, and this is the new weblog from Schulze & Webb. We’ve called it Pulse Laser for various reasons and one of them is that we like Elite:

Elite Load New Commander

The screencap is snarfed from this collection of Elite screens and – fantastically – the Elite manual is also online. While we’re on the subject, the extract from Backroom Boys by Francis Spufford, on the coding of Elite back in 1982, is a great read. I like that the only correction to the article is the year in which Margaret Thatcher denied the existence of society.

Spaceships and politics!

We’ll also be talking about design, the new world of product, and interactions.

I wonder if this is the same first post that everybody makes?

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