When Physical Met Digital
BY Adiya Taylor — October 18, 2021

Pokémon Go! dominated the majority of tech news outlets and social media conversations last week following its release. Many are hailing the game as society’s mainstream introduction to augmented reality (AR). The game brings the world of Pokémon into one’s own neighborhood. Aspiring Pokémon trainers have been scouring cities tirelessly, immersed in the Pokéverse and persistent in their quest to “catch ’em all.” Pokémon Go! overlays the game onto your geographical environment; however, there is a burgeoning subset of augmented, virtual, and mixed reality gameplay that merges the boundaries between digital and physical worlds. Let’s take a look at a few games that are redefining building and creation within gameplay. In these environments, you’re not just immersed in an alternate universe, you’re customizing completely new ones.

Freshly presented as a final project at the Royal College of Art in London, KOSKI is a new interactive game that allows players to construct scenes with building blocks and magnetic discs. Václav Mlynář, a recent graduate of RCA’s School of Design, created KOSKI as a part of his final project. According to deForm, Mlynář’s creative design studio, KOSKI “connects the physical and digital worlds together in a new and unusual” way. What distinguishes this game from traditional Legos and Lincoln Logs construction sets is its corresponding iPad app, which allows makers to animate their creations and manipulate their scenes. The iPad serves as a “magic mirror” to transform the physical building blocks and discs into architectural structures embellished with trees, waterfalls, and people! The KOSKI game opens up a variety of new possibilities for augmented reality gameplay. Mlynář’s concept behind KOSKI is to create a new gaming platform with a collection of connected apps that allow for endless creative adventures. At the intersection of worldmaking and strategy, we have Beasts of Balance. This game challenges users to a match against gravity as players attempt to stack animal-shaped “Artefacts” in a tower without causing the structure to collapse. However, Sensible Object, the game’s London-based creators, have “reinvented the game of balance” with an accompanying iPad app. With the addition of each the Artefacts, the digital world connected to the tower is transformed. Before adding their Artefact, players scan it with the sensor on the base of the tower. This sensor is tethered to the app, so that with the addition of each piece the digital “beasts” are altered with enhancements and unique hybridizations. The objective is not just to build as high and intricate a tower as possible, but also to create an extravagant digital universe. This new take on a classic tabletop game demonstrates the possibilities of merging physical and digital gameplay. <img class="alignleft wp-image-13765 size-full" src="https://futureofstorytelling.org/wp-content/uploads/Maze.gif" alt="Maze" width="480" height="270" /> Another creative platform, Maze, encourages players to design their own marble maze adventure. Players create a physical labyrinth using magnetic blocks and a swivel game board. By snapping a picture of the physical maze, the accompanying app creates a digitized version of the physical creation. Players can customize their digital mazes with obstacles, power-ups, and even selfies. Using a Google Cardboard VR headset, players “shrink” into their mazes and explore their creations. Maze makes a designer out of each player, and through inventive technology, these designers are transported into their own games. Multiplayer capabilities allow designers to share their creations with anyone using the app. Seedling, the creators of Maze, are scheduled to release the game this September. As the inventory of immersive projects continues to grow, we’re looking forward to exploring the increasingly blurred line between physical and digital games!