Everyone has ideas, and that’s good. But some of those ideas are strange, if not crazy, and the worst news of all is that we have almost no way to hear about them so that they can fascinate and occasionally confuse us.
Luckily, however, Google Patents exists, and it’s a valuable resource to learn about all kinds of ideas, both brilliant and … let’s just say “unique.”
I dove into the archives and came back with 10 of the strangest ideas for game-related inventions I could find. And here they are, in no particular order.
‘Unlocking secrets of video games’ (Patent #US6475083 B1)
This vaguely named patent, which sounds kind of like the title of either an entry-level course at a technical college or the slogan of the most fun cult imaginable, has to do with controllers. Specifically, it involves locking game content behind a wall that only particular peripherals can unlock.
And it’s not so much that different gamepads have different functions and will therefore let you play games in various ways, like Nintendo’s motion-control Wii Remote versus Microsoft’s gyroscope-deficient Xbox 360 controller. Rather, this patent aims at creating “such a strong synergy between the game and the matching video game controller [that] consumers are most likely to be attracted to the matching video game controller instead of other game controllers available in the marketplace.”
It’s basically a marketing ploy.
‘Method and apparatus for producing “personalized” games using CD discs’ (Patent #US5595389 A)
This patent and its amazing illustrations come from all the way back in 1993, which was a simpler time. Bill Clinton was President, the average price of gas was $1.16 a gallon, and Nintendo’s space-borne rail shooter Star Fox came out and blew everyone’s mind with its crazy, jagged polygons.
The idea is this: You use a camera to take low- and high-resolution images of yourself which a game can use to paste your face on top of the main character’s. It’s an idea developers have revisited several times, including Sony’s EyeToy camera peripheral and Face Raiders, which came packed in with Nintendo’s 3DS handheld system and turned players into grotesque flying monsters.
They weren’t supposed to be creepy, but they were.
Later on, the patent talks about a function in which players can print “hard copies” of their personalized characters, and I’m not sure what you’d want to do with those, but again, it was 1993.
‘Video game protective glove’ (Patent #US4519097 A)
Here’s an even older application from 1983, and it’s pretty amazing.
That up there is a glove that the inventor created to “leave the fingertips of the player exposed for greater sensitivity and feel of the controls while protecting the user’s fingers from abrasions, calluses, and bruises” while playing an arcade cabinet.
I haven’t personally ever played a stand-up game so long that I got a blister (although if I relax my left hand, it will settle into the exact shape of a PlayStation 2 controller). But I do like the idea of a hush falling over an audience as an ultra-serious guy opens a small, personalized case to remove the glove that marks him as a true diehard gamer.
Wait, no. That’s a scene from 1989’s feature-length Nintendo commercial The Wizard. Nevermind.
‘Inflatable vehicles for simulating driving for use with video games’ (Patent #US8210534 B2)
Immersion is important in games, but developers have different standards by which they measure it. It could just be a matter of letting the player become fully invested in the experience, and a sweet surround-sound mix certainly doesn’t hurt there.
But for other creative types, imagination only goes so far, and they want to offer as close an analog as they can to what’s happening onscreen. And that’s where inventions like this come from. It’s an inflatable go-cart that you sit in to pretend you’re driving while you play a motion-controlled racing game (the illustrations show a Wii Remote).
The inflatable steering wheel turns, and the inflatable tires … well, they don’t really do anything, but you can look down and see tires, and maybe that’ll help you win.
I’d probably also sit in this thing while I watched chase-heavy films like Bullitt or the original Gone in 60 Seconds. I’d pretend I was just some random person in traffic watching these amazing things happen in front of me.
‘Video-game screen divider’ (Patent #US5435557 A)
When you’re playing a splitscreen game against a friend, you want to be sure that everyone’s playing fairly. It takes the fun right out of everything when you find out that your opponent is beating you because they’re looking over at your side of the TV to see where you’re hiding. It’s just mean.
Luckily, someone thought of this divider, which gives you peace of mind at the small cost of affixing a piece of opaque material to your television.
The document describes seven different versions of this device with various materials and means of attachment. But the inventor says that optimally, “the preferred material is a polyurethane-foam that has been dyed or painted black.”
And because that’s really all this thing is, you can easily make your own. And I did when I was younger, but mine were made of cardboard, and I attached them with packing tape. But then I realized how needlessly complicated that was and adopted an “Everybody may peek” policy instead. It was just easier to enforce than the honor system.
‘Video-game player with extra disc tray’ (Patent #US20130244797 A1)
Some people like to jump around between games, and I assume that’s who this invention is for. It’s … well, it’s exactly what it says in the title: A home console with a built-in disc changer that will allow gamers to play
a plurality of games one after the other without the need for the player or someone else to physically approach the video game console to press the eject button and change discs every time the player wishes to play a different video game.
It’s certainly convenient if you have that many different things going on. I guess. It seems a little clunky, and the increased support and consumer adoption of digital distribution kinda renders it obsolete. But I’m sure that the inventor didn’t see that coming when they formed this idea all the way back in … 2012.
‘Apparatus for playing home video games’ (Patent #US4494754 A)
By “apparatus,” this document means “controller stand.” Specifically, one which fits between a player’s legs so that both hands are free to run the controls. I’m not really sure how useful or practical this is for today’s controllers with their vibrations and waggles, but this application is from 1982 when you played games using a joystick and, perhaps, a button.
I suppose the idea was to create something close to the arcade-cabinet experience, where you can have dedicated Stick and Button Hands, and it’s a solid enough idea, but I’m still not sure about it. Looking at the layout of the thing, I imagine it would feel like sitting in the kid seat at the top of a grocery cart.
And that’s where I put my eggs to keep them safe, so no deal.
‘Talking video games with vocal conflict’ (Patent #US5393072 A)
We’ve seen this idea for years, mostly in choice-driven titles like developer BioWare’s Mass Effect franchise of action role-playing games and Telltale’s episodic series The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. But apparently this concept is for projects that are entirely about two characters having arguments. At least, that’s what I got from the application.
The player has a controller on which they select what one character will say, and events change based on those decisions. It’s interesting that this design has no text whatsoever on the screen; all of the dialogue choices appear on a display on the gamepad.
It’s also really charming that the examples in this document include “animated pictures of a beach scene in which three animated talking characters [. . .] have a conflict over their love affairs and argue with each other about it” and another one about two guys who have a communication breakdown while carrying a pipe.
‘Motion platform video game racing and flight simulator’ (Patent #US8298845 B2)
I’d be lying if I said that the idea of a chair that moves in response to the motions of the aircraft or car I was controlling in a game didn’t sound like something I might want in my apartment. I’d also be lying if I told you I had any room in my apartment for this thing.
It’s cool, nonetheless. When I was a kid, one of my all-time favorite arcade games was the combat flight simulator After Burner. And it wasn’t because I liked the game so much as I loved playing it because the cockpit-style cabinet moved, and that’s just good fun all around.
I encourage anyone interested in design to go look at this application; it includes pictures of every component in the thing, and it’s all fascinating. And also read the text because it contains sentences like
In one embodiment enhanced performance of a motion-generating device having a rider or driver is accomplished through the location of the center of mass of a payload as near as practicable to the pivotal center of the payload support.
And that’ll make some people as motion-sick as the chair would.
‘Apparatus and method for timing video games’ (Patent #US5964661 A)
The purpose of this handy device is to allow parents to monitor and regulate how long their children play games. Or, I guess, anyone to monitor and regulate how long anyone plays video games, including themselves. No need to be all ageist and closed-minded here.
Anyway, this thing hooks into the power supply so that it can interrupt it when time expires, thereby turning off the console. The application describes a few different versions, including that interesting-looking one in Figure 6 up there that fits between the console and the cartridge (this would be in a top-loading system like Nintendo’s Super NES or the Sega Genesis).
I can’t imagine the cost in saved games from the device just abruptly turning off the console like that. It would also be unfortunate if time ran out during one of those times where the game says, “Do not remove the memory card or switch off the console.” This thing could corrupt everything.
Oh, and here’s a bonus: You may be wondering what’s stopping kids from just unhooking the timer. Well, the inventor thought of that.
The video game timer is plugged into the power input jack of the video game console, and the video game power supply (not shown) is plugged into the power input jack of the video game timer. When the video game timer is plugged into the power input jack of the video game unit, the user should apply a small amount of adhesive, as shown in FIGS. 9 and 12, around the power input jack of the video game unit. This ensures that once the video game timer is installed, it cannot be sabotaged by someone simply pulling out the timer and replacing the power cord that was previously on the video game unit.
That’s right: Two out of three of the proposed setups require owners to to glue this thing to their console. I can’t see anything going wrong with that, ever.