Software developers at Iceland-based Mindgames have created an iOS game that uses your brainwaves to play. Yes, your brainwaves. The premise of the game is as follows: A zombie is hankering for some human flesh, which is not unusual for the walking dead. Only this zombie is sophisticated and eats his brains with a spoon, so the player must bend a never-ending supply of spoons to fend him off.
To learn more about ‘28 Spoons Later,’ a title that is almost certainly homage to the epic zombie flick ‘28 Days Later,’ I’ve decided to pick the brains of CEO Deepa Iyengar, an entrepreneur and neuroscientist living in Iceland.
Which came first, the zombie or the spoon?
The spoons came first. We included a scene in our earlier game, ‘W.I.L.D.’ in which the player has to concentrate to bend a spoon to get it into a bowl of food. Then, in the next scene, feed a hungry baby alien by relaxing to float the spoon across the room into its mouth.
We noticed that players really liked bending the spoon. Maybe not surprising, since psychic spoon-bending is an old meme from the ‘70s and ‘80s, thanks to Uri Geller. So we wanted to centre our next game on spoon-bending.
Most good videogames need a story. Why is it so important to bend as many spoons as possible? Well, staying alive is a good motivation for many things. What is cool and can kill you? Aliens, yeah, but these days it’s all about ZOMBIES.
Now, “The Gentleman Zombie” is confusing to me because zombies are as a rule thoughtless eating machines. Explain your departure from common zombie lore.
Our zombie is a gentleman zombie. He has a passion for gracious living and believes that eating with spoons, instead of tearing brains apart with your hands, adds meaning to life. So, as long as you can keep ruining his spoons, he won’t be able to use one to dig into your brains.
If he weren’t so polite, it wouldn’t matter whether or not you bent the spoons—he’d eat your brains right away! This was a clever solution by our programmer Pétur Orri Ragnarsson. Anyway, don’t be so racist against zombies.
…So is this game aimed at zombie nuts like me?
All of our games are meant to give the player a fun way to become good at controlling his ability to concentrate and relax. But each one targets a different sort of player.
This game, ‘28 Spoons Later,’ is the most conventional one we’ve made so far; it’s for gamers who want to earn points to see their progress and compare how good they are with how good they were yesterday or how good their friends are.
You never finish the game because the spoons just keep getting more and more difficult—you can just get better at not dying early.
I read that Mindgames is the first in the world to sell an iOS app controlled by the user’s brainwaves. Is that true and how does that feel?
As far as we are aware, yes, we are the first company to sell a brainwave-controlled iOS app. Our first release, Tug of Mind, came out in late December 2010, but we had actually finished it back in March 2010—we just had to wait for the brainwave headset to be released!
At least for a little while more, we get to keep being “first in the world”—first brainwave-controlled iOS app, first brainwave-controlled iOS game, and now the first brainwave-controlled zombie game. It is cool to be first in the world at something, but we also want to become the best in the world.
What’s it like to develop something like this in Iceland as opposed to elsewhere in the world?
Iceland is the best place to make the kind of games we want to make—games with innovative gameplay and aesthetic. As you know, Reykjavík is bursting with talent in music and design, and we are lucky to have two of the best as our cofounders and designers: Ragnar Már Nikulásson, who did the graphics animation and composed the music for ‘28 Spoons Later’ and Katla Rós Völudóttir.
Now, what do I need to play this game? Because as it is, I command my iPhone to do things with my mind and nothing happens.
Uhm, Our games are all available on the iPhone/iPad App Store. The XWave sells for US$99 at www.plxwave.com. There is also a new headset coming out in March, the NeuroSky MindWave Mobile, which unlike the XWave will be wireless (bluetooth). We have a prototype in the office and it’s comfortable and easy to use. I don’t yet know what the price will be, but I don’t expect it to be more than US$150..