Clever Games Use Handcrafted, One-of-a-Kind Controllers

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Homies: These two games by Sam Sheffield are played by donning a freaky wooden mask and obeying the commands of a "bossy inner voice." In a twist on Simon, the game tells you to pick your nose, suck your thumb, poke yourself in the eye, et cetera, and you have to do these things to the mask to keep playing. Buttons in the nostrils and eyeholes register your presses. Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

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What Hath God Wrought?: Ever wanted to type out Morse code on a real, old telegraph machine? This game by Mike Lazer-Walker uses 19th-century hardware for its call-and-response gameplay. You receive the Morse code signals and tap out responses. Just don't get your dots and dashes mixed up. Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

3 / 7

Butt Sniffin' Pugs: If you've ever wanted to be a dog and get real close and personal with another dog, this is probably your jam. In this open-ended game, each player controls a pixelated 16-bit-lookin' pug as they wander around a park, rolling the tennis ball to walk around. Pressing the buttons activates their special dog powers, like digging or pooping. But the powers assigned to you are random, and you can't do everything in the game with just what you're given. So you can switch up your powers by sniffing the other dogs' butts, which is activated by pressing the stuffed dog posterior when you get close to the other player. So lifelike! Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

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Tripad: Alexander Krasij put three Novation LaunchPad Mini devices together to create Tripad, a game for three players. In the version we tried, we could press buttons on our pad to create lines that wrapped around all the screens, the objective being to trap a bouncing ball on our panel and keep it away from our opponents. The orientation of the screens and the tactility of the button interface made this something like a version of foosball that you'd see in a 1960s movie about the future. Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

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Line Wobbler: Robin Baumgarten's attention-grabbing creation was one of the most addictive and fun games at the exhibit. Line Wobbler is billed as a "1-D dungeon crawler." It's played on a single 6-meter LED strip that Baumgartner had bent up the side of a cardboard tube, rising high above the rest of the game demos. You maneuver your dot to the end of each level, avoiding traps and advancing with caution. The controller is a shoetree, the kind with a spring: There's an accelerometer atop the spring, and it works surprisingly like an analog joystick---pushing the spring just a bit forward advances you slowly; tilting it all the way races you to the end. The best part: You pluck the spring and make it wobble back and forth quickly to attack enemies. Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

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Spacebro Justice Rocket: If you're not already friends with whoever you play this game with, you probably will be. Nick Kornek and Louis Sciannamblo created this game about the "High-5000s, advanced weapons from the future" that allow a pair of interstellar cops to take down bad guys through the power of high-fives and fist-bumps. Sensors on the palms, knuckles, and elbows of these gloves know when players are slapping each other, and visual cues on the screen let you know when to do what. The power of platonic friendship saves the galaxy once again. Josh Valcarcel/WIRED


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Robo Mama's Cooking Kitchen: This uses a real kids' kitchen playset with some serious modifications. Designers Jerry Belich and Kristina Durivage wired it all up with an elaborate array of LEDs and sensors. The machine tells you when to turn on the oven, fill the pan with water, and which vegetables to place in the pan. Do it all correctly and you're rewarded with... actually, we're not sure, as we kept screwing it up. All this needs is a tiny plastic Gordon Ramsay screaming at you. Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

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