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In this GDC space, a toilet plunger becomes your game controller

Welcome to "alt.ctrl.GDC," the gaming show's special showcase of alternative control schemes and interactions.

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James Martin
Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco alt.ctrl.GDC
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What happens when you mix one part hacker space with one part game developer community and throw in a pinch of bizarre? You get one of the most unique spaces at the Game Developers Conference, "alt.ctrl.GDC."

With wild alternative controllers that use movements, actions and some very interesting switches, visitors can play games in a whole new way. They also get to meet the developers behind the projects.  

Here, two players are immersed in a game called Tied Escape: The Curse of Cortez, designed by French game-design and game-art students from Rubika Supinfogame university. Though the game has simple instructions, there are some physical constraints -- you're literally tied to a chair along with your partner. 

Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco alt.ctrl.GDC
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Concept studio HNRY developed the game Continuum Bacterium, in which players must use phase-shifting techniques on a wrist-mounted controller to disinfect the entire spectrum by scanning through different frequency bands.

Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco alt.ctrl.GDC
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The creators of Plunge have built a player-versus-player party game that's based around plungers and toilets. The controllers to the pipes- and toilet-themed game are plungers, and must be worked up and down. With challenges like wizard battles, pipe tennis and a dating game... Plunge doesn't stink.

Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco alt.ctrl.GDC
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Neon Nemesis appears to be a pretty typical 1980s-era joystick game -- except in this case, the game plays back. 

At first glance there are three players. But take a peek behind the curtain and you'll see there's a hidden fourth player who controls the obstacles in the game, like doors and hatches. 

Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco alt.ctrl.GDC
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In Neon Nemesis, the man behind the curtain plays the part of the game's antagonist. "This is fantastic!" the nemesis says of the unique concept game.

Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco alt.ctrl.GDC
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Team Moon Moon's Coal Rush is a physical movement game that requires players to shovel coal (plastic balls) into buckets that represent coal cars, thus powering their trains to victory.

Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco alt.ctrl.GDC
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Octopad is an interesting type of controller: It's an alternative interface for the Nintendo Entertainment System that transforms classic games into new concepts with eight controllers -- each with just one button! 

Instead of a single player experience, here Octopad has turned the game of Tetris into a cooperative team sport, where players must work together to achieve the game's goals.

Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco alt.ctrl.GDC
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Puzzle designer Paul Hiebowitch, better known as FLEB, has built the complex Extrareality Codebreaker. This game is a single player, two-part puzzle that requires players to use a dial to interact with a small game, then mimic that interaction outside the controller. It ends with the player constructing his or her own version of the controller to solve the puzzle.

Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco alt.ctrl.GDC
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Jack Ford's Roambot was built around the question "What do robots dream about?" Tune his antennas, tilt his head and explore his mind to discover his thoughts.

Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco alt.ctrl.GDC
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With interfaces for different cooking actions like chopping vegetables, stirring a pot or adding ingredients, Enric Llagostera has built a one-of-a-kind cooking-themed game.

Llagostera says this is a game "about how immigration systems and capitalist discourses of multiculturalism combine to oppress migrants."

Cooking here has become an abstract test with steps that must be done precisely and are judged strictly.

Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco alt.ctrl.GDC
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Alon Adda's Table44 is a programmable electronic platform for games and music that has no screen, keyboard or mouse but is instead controlled by touch sensors around the table.

Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco alt.ctrl.GDC
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Koo-Koo is a first-of-its-kind birdhouse game in which you control a flock of mechanical birds using a cuckoo clock. You jump from clock to clock to give commands by pulling on weights and setting the hands.

Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco alt.ctrl.GDC
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Got rhythm? Then check out Guitar Wizards from a team based in Cape Town, South Africa. The rhythm-based duel uses a modified Guitar Hero guitar controller to let players fire chords at each other across an LED board.

Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco alt.ctrl.GDC
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Alistair Aitcheson's The Book Ritual is a game player in a real world paper book! Tear pages to keep the conversation going, acting out the process of loss and transformation. He says it's an interactive art piece "about finding growth in the face of loss."

Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco alt.ctrl.GDC
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Maybe you just want to sit on the couch. Then welcome to Hellcouch: A couch co-op game where the couch is the controller! 

Sit, stand and move around the cushions to release the demons.

Want to check it out? Alt.ctrl.GDC is located on the lower level expo floor of the North Hall at Moscone Center in San Francisco at the Game Developers Conference through Friday.

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