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It's Cool to Play with Your Food in This Virtual Reality Game

New VR game 'Playthings' makes players use snacks as instruments.
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Tired of the real world? Need a vacation? Then take a trip to a virtual island full of candy colored objects, musical instruments, and shimmering portals in Playthings, a virtual reality game revolving around music, with floating junk food that acts as instruments. Hot dogs, hamburgers, jelly beans, and popsicles hover everywhere in this remote archipelago, and each one plays its own sound. Depending on the level, you have a choice of drumsticks, giant mallets, or tongs to wield as tools, the last of which can be used to pick up the buffet of aural treats and arrange to your liking.

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Developed over the course of several months by George Michael Brower, the game is free-ranging, where players are encouraged to do as they please, building or destroying at will. There are few rules here, except that you enjoy yourself. Even if you're not musically inclined, you can just run around this hyper-saturated saccharine world moving stuff and knocking it over.

It's like diving inside a Mario or Sonic game, a comic alternative to the more popular, realistic worlds of first-person shooters. That was a priority for Brower, who left Google a couple years ago to pursue personal fulfilment as a freelance designer with his studio, Always & Forever Computer Entertainment.

"VR represents this blank check to do go anywhere and do anything," he tells Creators Project, "So I felt obligated to make something really non-sensical. You could be playing pianos and drums in Playthings, but you can do that without VR, so I picked food instead." The timing is certainly right to make games with pop appeal, geared towards more than just other developers. When the Vive first when public in March, they sold 15,000 sets immediately. By June, it's estimated they had sold nearly 100,000.

Brower used Cinema 4D to model the food, tools, and environments; and Unity for programming, interactivity, and shaders. He created nearly the whole thing from scratch, learning the software as he went. Right now, Playthings is only available for HTC Vive, but he would like to release a snack-sized version for mobile phones. He's also hoping to develop a version for the Oculus Touch, a brand new set of which sits in a box next to his work station. "It just so happened when I moved into the studio space I share with these guys now, a Vive had arrived through a friend of a friend the day prior," he explains.

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While this is his first VR game, he's always had an interest in interactive music. Studiomate Jonathan Baken was the main sound designer and composer for Playthings, and the two also created a visual album together, where the MIDI notes float in a 3D space, lighting up in time with the music. Brower sees a powerful future in music education for virtual reality, using it as a tool to teach kids how to read and play music. There's a feature in Playthings flirting with that, where users play a pre-written song by hitting gummy bear and sprinkle notes that fly at them in proper order.

While the Vive is still a little clunky—a heavy box strapped over your face with wires drooping from them and tangle in your feet—Playthings is light and airy, more vivid than life itself. Even after only a few minutes inside, the real world feels a little dull afterwards.

See more of George Michael Brower’s work on his website.

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