In connection with the stuff about physical objects being combined with games....
What if through play the player unlocked physical pieces for their real-world construction. So let's say that in the game the player overcomes challenges, obviously. He is given rewards. Some of these rewards include a physical counterpart, or the player is allowed to choose between a digital thing and an actual thing.
The player has this slowly building physical monstrosity. So for example, in this board game I played once with a piece of my family, there was this cool toy-like game piece that had functional value. It was a tower that you dropped different colored pieces into. Some of these pieces fell out of the tower and some stayed inside. It was fun to drop stuff inside it. Based on what fell out of the tower different things would happen in the game. The tower was basically a device for choosing results in a probability space, like a multi-dimensional specially sided die.
So let's say the player had similar devices to be used in the real world in conjunction with the digital game. The devices could: be used as a marker, keeping track of critical information in the middle of a grand battle or something like that; be used as a planning tool, to work through the basics of some kind of abstract strategy, that can be executed in the game but with additional details that could otherwise overwhelm the player; provide functional answers like a calculator (or the probability tower I described earlier). Functional answers could also be found through a series of die roles and moving pieces, and so on.
I like the idea of a planning tool. So if there were rules for the real-word object - like a board with pieces - then the player could play according to them to test out ideas, using the object like a specialized whiteboard with a built-in guide.
The value of a physical board and pieces is such:
- The player becomes more familiar with the mechanics and ideas presented through it.
- The player will feel more free in using his imagination with physical pieces.
- The player is drawn back to the real world through it. He can play it on his floor, at a table, is more aware of his home and surroundings when using it.
- The player will find it easier to engage others unfamiliar with the digital game in the real-world game. He can use the real-world game as an introduction tool to the digital one, which will have cooperative/competitive multiplayer.
Maybe the board game is purely a practice tool. There are all these pieces for it, and as the player earns more rewards in-game he is allowed to order more custom pieces. Or maybe anyone can buy custom pieces and those who earn the necessary rewards in the digital game get an at-cost discount.
So the player buys these pieces then can arrange them to create increasingly complex setups. All of the pieces are highly reusable, almost like K'nex or Lego but way cooler. Each setup corresponds to the training of a particular class of skills, like understanding an element of strategy, or a monster's powers, or how to maximize the value of a new or potential power. The real-world game can be played alone or with others. By following its rules a player can repeatedly try out strategies and learn how they fair.
The biggest advantage of the real-world setup is in the opportunity it provides to test out ideas that are too time expensive in the digital game. For example, let's say the player is an action hero in the digital game who roams a massive battlefield, choosing objectives on-the-go and participating in the challenge each one presents. The results of these challenges are up to the player's action/tactical skills. The results of the entire battle are up to the results of these challenges, and the strategy present in the objectives the player chooses.
For example: the player chooses to protect one area while an ally regroups, instead of flanking the enemy's weak point, say for 5 minutes, then provides support for that ally's return assault for 15 minutes, then runs a gauntlet to an outpost for supplies for 8 minutes, the delivers them to point A instead of B or C. In the digital game there are two kinds of challenges, the low level action/tactics and the high-level strategy, that are merged into a seamless experience. The real-world game focuses on just the strategic elements. The real-world game has value because the player can use it to test out many strategies in a short period of time while he cannot use the digital one to do the same thing.
Obviously you can take any game and apply this formula. Fighters have a high barrier to strategic diversity posed by the necessity to learn and execute complex combos. What if players could discover what strategies they like, what characters they like, and why the game's strategy itself is interesting without having to practice like crazy first. These things could happen in-game but could also happen outside of it. Outside of the game the player could be given a goal to strive towards, an appreciation for how to play character X at a high level, and a desire to master the skills necessary to get there. You could build a board game, a card game, flash cards, or whatever to do this.
If the player earns a reward in-game then he gets a practice tool in-game, or he can buy the out-of-game tool. These tools can be different from each other or not. Maybe the tools that can be purchased/earned give discounts for their real/digital world counterpart.
You can take it further and create custom pieces for the player, that can only be unlocked (not easily pirated). So let's say that in the digital game the player builds up a character and NPC partners and a set of equipment. Then he can go to his computer and print off special game pieces on paper for his real-world setup. These pieces, or just sheets, would have values on them that are not available to the player from the digital game alone. These values would be necessary components in the playing of the real-world game, assuming the player wants to test out strategies that are specific to his digital character and assets. In other words the printed sheets would contain what act like "keys" to make the real-world game work.
Implementing this idea is tricky because it requires the digital game to hide qualities of items the player owns (such as his char). The player can use these things in the digital game but can't know or intuit all of their important stats. Otherwise the printed sheets cannot be charged for or given as a reward. Inventive players could discover ways to determine the stats necessary to make the physical pieces from the digital game alone.
The obvious solution here is to create a function that produces real-world game-piece stats that is tricky enough for players to determine so that the convenience of letting an official site provide pieces (with stats) is enough of a deterrent for players not to cheat.
An even better alternative is to personalize all of the game pieces. So the player has X, Y, Z digital equipment and can therefore buy X, Y, Z in real-world form. X, Y, Z is created with a personal flair that is unique to the player that owns them, based on his/her char/accomplishments in the digital game.
An easy way to do this is have a function that takes the digital versions of a player's personal stuff and creates a set of nice 2D images from them, like a character portrait and so on. You could also have a function turn digital objects into simpler shapes that can then be turned in 3D physical form by routing their construction through a 3D printer or toy/object maker. This would allow players to order truly custom 3D real-world game pieces. They could unlock 2D personal printer versions through the digital game and/or buy the fancy 3D stuff online. The 3D stuff could also require the same unlocks.
Take a skill like intermediate math, put it in the digital game somewhere as just a component, get players to care about the game, have them print off and play with physical components that develop that skill, sell the nicer versions online, boom, kid learns that skill in/through the real world. You have a system for producing learning tools.
Create an interface for players to create/test tools that develop skills in-game. Apply the given system. You have created a market for building and selling the process for learning things (in the real-world).