Brave New Worlds: Recapturing the Physical in a Digital World



Hi Everyone:

Some men give their wives clothes or jewelry for Christmas (some even throw in lingerie if they’re feeling like a return on their investment). No, Not me. I gave my wife the game, Skylanders: Giants. Judge me if you would like, but we love that game.

Even if you’re not familiar with the game, you may have run across the toys associated with them at your local Target, Walmart, Game Stop, etc. The story is fun, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the toys that really make the game special. You see, the game comes with a small “portal,” a fancy term for small, glowing disc attached to your game console. You put the toys on the portal and it reads them, allowing you to play with the same character in the game as you are holding in your hands.

The information of the character’s progress is stored on the toy itself and is unique to that character, allowing you to build a memory for that character that is unique to itself (for example, if one character picks up a hundred coins, then only that character can use said coin; the other characters you might buy must get their own). So, as you collect the various Skylanders, you must develop them individually, creating a community of unique individuals bonding together to reach new levels, gain new skills, and ultimately beat the big, bad boss.

The greatest thing about the game is that, even if the game is not on, a player can still play with the toy. In fact, I know of a kid who collected most of the Skylanders before not actually owning the game. In this electronic age, it’s great to have something physical, to play with, even when the console breaks or the power goes out.

Plus, there is something fundamentally awesome about owning an entire collection of something and see that collection frolic and fight on the screen.

Not long after Christmas, I bought Anomaly, a new interactive graphic novel. Now, Comics have been around for quite some time, and digital copies thereof have grown in recent years to appease the burgeoning iCrowd. However, I am fascinated with “Anomaly” because, like Skylanders, it blurs the lines between the digital and real world.

The novel is brilliantly illustrated and tells an engaging story, but I find its most jaw-dropping attribute to be its interactive element. Upon opening the book, you are encouraged to download the Anomaly app onto your smartphone or tablet (anything with a camera option). Then, on certain pages, you are instructed to raise the device up to them and, on the tablet’s screen appears a 3D image of what you are seeing on the page. This image moves, makes sound, and includes a background story, thus circumventing the need for extensive footnotes on the physical page. I love being able to see what the author sees and so engage in a world on his/her terms. There is nothing wrong with old-fashioned imagination to bridge the gap; but, still, the innovation is much appreciated.

Granted, Skylanders and Anomaly are marketed to very different age sets (young kids vs. teens and parents, respectively); however, they share in a common bond: a new techno-tactile reality. To be honest,

I cringe when I think everything might go digital someday. I enjoy the convenience digital platforms provide, but I think the brain needs to process physical things in order to develop and mature. I enjoy these two products because they offer me the advantages of both: something to interact with absent of wi-fi and power outlets and an expansive universe unique to the digital realm. I can share my experiences and I can keep them to myself. It’s a very attractive concept.

In conclusion, I celebrate in the new horizons that Skylanders and Anamoly have opened up to their audiences, and I can’t wait to see what they, and others following in theirs stead, will do next. The ‘Verse is the limit.


A. Ybarra

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