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Using tech to add magic to real-life play: Gigantic Mechanic

A game development company and consultancy has been using technology to enhance games in the real world.

Sesame Street Boxheads, in action. (Photo courtesy of Gigantic Mechanic)

Gigantic Mechanic specializes in embodied play. It likes to come up with games where people actually interact but technology is used to add something to the experience beyond what’s possible without it.

Mostly, the company works with clients who want to give people a different kind of experience, Greg Trefry, a cofounder and game designer we spoke to via phone told us. “We don’t tend to focus on any one technology, rather than what delivers the best experience,” Trefy said. “The way we have used technology is a way to add a little magic or track a lot of people.”

Here are a few examples of games they have built:

  • Sesame Street Boxheads, with the Sesame Innovation Lab. Parents get their heads put in a box and their kids “control” them by issue commands like forward, back, left and right on a tablet. The commands are communicated to their parents via sound, so there’s a lot of room for interpretation.
  • Sharkvolution with the American Museum of Natural History. Kids play through a series of mini-games that cause their species of shark to evolve traits. At the end, they have created a unique species.
  • Tailing Tilley, a citywide scavenger hunt based on the archives of The New Yorker, played as part of the 2009 New Yorker Festival.

Some of the company’s most innovative games have been products made in-house to try out ideas and build Gigantic Mechanic’s own brand — such as this virtual golf game that took advantage of early iPhone accelerometers to gamify exploring the city. Or this web-based game that was playable by any device. A spaceship shooter where two players each had one button on their cell phone to work together to guide a ship, where blasting one of its cannons both propelled it and guided it.

The five-year-old company is operating from Gowanus. It started at the Brooklyn Creative League coworking space but now has a space of its own. There’s plenty of room to experiment with real-life, tech-enhanced play.

“We have a sort of raw cementish sort of office that gives us a little more room to experiment,” Trefry said.

The company runs the Come Out and Play Festival, which has been running in New York since 2006 and has been expanding into other cities.

Series: Brooklyn

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