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Lick Your Way Through Outer Space on a Popsicle-Controlled Video Game

When an arcade game is also a tasty snack...

by Alyssa Buffenstein
Mar 19 2016, 12:30pm

Ice pop controls. All images courtesy of Otis Denner-Kenney

Planet Licker is a new type of game-playing, popsicle-eating experience. Instead of buttons, the controller for this video game has popsicles. Rather than using their fingers to press them, the player uses their tongue to control their on-screen character.

A collaborative effort among developer Frank DeMarco, artist Otis Denner-Kenny, and Andy An’s food design studio Mouth Arcade, the game was featured in the Game Developer’s Conference’s 2016 Alt.Ctrl.GDC showcase, an exhibition devoted to games with alternative control schemes.

The game is fairly simple: When you lick one of three brightly colored, specially flavored popsicles, your avatar, an orb-encased pair of lips floating in space, is propelled towards the nearest planet of that color. Dangerous mines try to protect the planets, so you have to time your licks to avoid certain death—and to be able to keep savoring the curated flavors of the popsicles, which have ranged from a coffee, cranberry, and blueberry combo, to a deconstructed cola flavor with cinnamon, vanilla, and orange-lime.

The creative team met at a Ludum Dare game jam at Babycastles, and were motivated primarily by a shared desire to expand the field of gaming to all five senses. Using aluminum cups and dry ice, the Planet Licker team has found ways around the temporality of ice pops.

“In our testing we found that we ran into problems if the game ran too long, causing the popsicles to melt. This was one of our motivations for making the game an arcade style time trials based game,” Denner-Kenney told The Creator’s Project.

“We're looking into making the controllers completely food safe (maybe even ceramic!) so melted pops would not be problematic,” said An.

Those who have gotten to play the game have seemed pretty enthusiastic, and the best players have developed a specific way of licking to become immortalized on the Planet Licker high score board, into which they can enter their names with their tongue.

“People who have played our game have come up with many different styles of licking, currently our speed leaderboard is topped by two people who poked the popsicles with their tongues,” said Denner-Kenney.

Although Planet Licker is totally G-rated, when many people see this particular type of lingual acrobatics, their dirty minds can’t help but think of a sexier type of licking.

“As for the oral sex implications for the ice-pop controller, it's a pretty common question we get, and it's undeniable that the gesture of licking is something that is reserved for specific foods or, yes, sex. That being said, it was never our intention to imply it in our game,” said An.

“I think teledildonics is certainly a field that is developing in interesting ways right now. From what I know, the technology is already far more advanced than what this project could provide to the field. I am curious to watch as the field continues to develop, it's very interesting to imagine ways to express love over long distances,” said Denner-Kenney.

Even if Planet Licker is too simple for sex robot technology, it might just be perfect for gamers with limited mobility—someone like Michael Phillip Begum, who was born with a rare disease called arthrogryposis, which limits the mobility of his limbs. Known in the gaming world as Brolylegs, he’s ranked the number one Chun Li online player of Street Fighter 4, and he plays only with his mouth.

“It would be amazing to get [Begum’s] opinion on all of this,” Said An.  “If this controller could be developed into something that allowed people who were [as skilled as Begum] at manipulating the muscles of their mouth, I think it would open up lots of possibilities,” said Denner-Kenney.

Eating popsicles has never been so fun.

To learn more about Planet Licker, click here.

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