Video games have made exciting advances over the last 50 years, but they’ve also brought about their fair share of anxieties. Just ask any parent if they worry about too much “screen time” being unhealthy and anti-social. But the alternatives–board games and card games that do encourage social play–seem hopelessly analog compared to their high-tech counterparts.
Fabulous Beasts, the first game coming from the new London-based studio Sensible Object, aims to relieve some of that collective anxiety by combining the best of both worlds. Inspired by smart objects like the Nest thermostat, Fabulous Beasts connects a multi-colored stack of building blocks to an engaging digital world, bringing in a social, tactile element to digital gameplay.
Think of the game like an internet-connected Jenga. Kids stack asymmetrical 3-D printed blocks on top of a sensor, which then transmits data about the tower’s weight and shape to an iPad app. Inside the digital game, the stack becomes a fantastical creature. Players win points for “fabulousness”: the taller the stack, the more fabulous your invented beast becomes. But if the gravity of the real world brings the tower down, its digital avatar dies too.
“We see the Internet of Things as an opportunity to make a new play experience,” says Alex Fleetwood, CEO of Sensible Object. “The mindset is that you can either be playing a wholesome game of stacking wooden blocks or a video game. We’re interested in rejecting that by designing digital games that have a real world element.”
Fabulous Beasts is not the only game that accomplishes this–games like Skylanders and Disney Infinity also bring physical toys to digital life in similar ways. But these games merely use the physical object as a switch to unlock the more immersive digital world where the game is played out. Fabulous Beasts incorporates the two spheres more seamlessly, allowing for the real-world element to be just as engaging as the vividly constructed on-screen world.
Sensible Object has been developing Fabulous Beasts since it was founded in July 2015, and is making the gaming festival rounds with it now. In January, it’ll launch the game on Kickstarter in hopes of bringing it to market later next year. Until then, you can learn more about the Fabulous Beasts on its website.