Steely Feelies, Ideally: Free Brainstorming and/or Unrestrained Speculation regarding Hypothetical Feelies

So the other day I was watching Adam Sommerfield open his copy of “Hibernated 1” by Stefan Vogt. Hearing him romanticize about it and seeing the contents sent me down a rabbit hole reading about physical old-school feelies and the digital echoes today.

This got me contemplating about new ways to use the medium and some speculative avenues. I was wondering how one might up their feelie game (and also resurrect some of the old-school tangible feelie delight) without assembling and mass-mailing hundreds or thousands of physical boxes. I had some ideas, but I’m uncertain if they suck. What I am certain of is that they might inspire a creative group of folks like you to brainstorm something better.

In vaguely ascending order of insanity:

  • Include voicemail recordings, grainy security footage, photos taken from a telephoto lens (sorta like the stereotypical blackmail photos delivered in clasped security envelope), vlog-ish tiktok accounts, annotated satellite photographs, etc.

  • Include "recovered" *.doc files and readme.txt files or even strategically corrupted files (test that you can recover them with common recovery tools), dead URLs that lead nowhere, but were (intentionally) captured on the way-back machine before being wiped (you could even artfully link away from the archived pages to tantalizing bits of the site that weren’t archived), etc.

  • Include password protected zip files that appear to be secure files from an in-game entity (with the password hidden in-game).

  • Include printable origami with the fold directions on the print-out. (If blade runner were IF, it’d have you fold up an origami Unicorn, for example.) It wouldn’t be clear what it was until you finished folding it. Since there’s no immediately apparent easy way (that I’m aware of) to digitally fold up an origami sheet into a 3D image, this might prompt many people to actually print the thing, leading to an actual physical manifestation from the game sitting on their desk.

  • Include printable files for 3D printers. I know 3D printers aren’t as ubiquitous as we’d like, but often schools and libraries have some for public use if the player themselves doesn’t own one. This might be a fun way of designing and sharing a palpable 3D memento from your game.

  • Starting a creepypasta like Crow 64 and then meandering it through some IF titles. You could also create a breadcrumb trail through the internet; youtube videos, fictional accounts (twitter, linkedin, myspace, etc), maybe even a github if I ever fully understand how the site works…

I had some other more exotic ideas as well:

  • Maybe include some more substantial physical relics of the game as limited availability easter eggs. Imagine if you solved a difficult extra puzzle that wasn’t necessary to complete the game, or found a subtle easter egg. Now imagine that the easter egg supplies a URL and a magic incantation (or passcode or whatnot depending on the game genre). This leads you to a listing on Ebay for a custom physical feelie from that game’s narrative. When I think narratively relavent, if the game were Aisle, I’d offer a jar of tomato sauce with a custom label (with cheeky warning text about ‘Known to the state of California to cause blunt force trauma,’ etc.), or if the game were Lost Pig, I’d offer a pair of scorched orc-sized pants with GRUNK (backwards R) crudely stitched into them. I’d make the item availability one, and create a handful of unique items scattered throughout the game. I’d set the normal price for that item absurdly high, $15,000 w/ free shipping, whatever (can’t have random internet peeps buying it prematurely). Submitting the magic incantation or passcode into the promo field makes the item free. Ebay allows sellers to create promo codes for their items. Once the item is sold and is no longer available, you leave the URL up (with the item listed as out-of-stock) and adjust the item description. You don’t want later folks who discover this to be disappointed, so be congratulatory and offer some other digital reward (images, plot reveals, etc; something that can be reproduced digitally ad infinitum) in the updated item description as a consolation prize. Also, each time one of these are found, adjust the description of the found feelies to acknowledge how many undiscovered and unclaimed feelies remain in the game; I could see this fueling some fun obsession. I get it’s a little grandiose, but I also think it’s pretty fun. The limited quantities allow for better individual feelies (although, likely not quite to the standard of a solid gold lamp, sadly).

  • Maybe tying geocaching into a work of IF? This would have to be a collaborative effort, but it could be brilliant. There are some fantastic geocaching puzzles and games that are actually oddly reminiscent of IF puzzles; they often include riddles, or scavenger hunts to put the pieces together for an overarching puzzle or achievement. Anyway, imagine an IF that takes place in various real-world settings across the world. The various real-world settings would have geo-caches put in place that include thematically relevant additions to the narrative or tongue-in-cheek suggestions that the fictional characters were actually there as proposed. The first geocache in each location would be a relative give-me from the IF game, but that first geocache would include a puzzle or riddle that would lead to the subsequent geocaches in that location. Getting to the last geocache in that location reveals a secret word that can be entered into the game to unlock additional content, stuff, etc. I would imagine solving this game being a collaborative effort on perhaps or ifMUD as various individuals from different countries or regions submit what they’ve found at a geocache, leading the community to discuss how this fits in and how to solve this next bit. I’d like to invoke the spirit of The Hat Mystery from the 2011 IFCOMP. Submitting all of the secret words from each geocaching region unlocks a special ending for the game. If you include a link to the ifdb listing for the game at each geocache and register all of the geocaches, this has the added benefit of possibly introducing a completely different audience to IF altogether, as normal geocachers will come across these geocaches on their own.

  • Literally burying tiny treasure chests. This one is more problematic. Again, upon some incredible feat of puzzle-solving or general brilliance, the player is given a private URL. They state their country (and region if it’s a big country) of residence, and if the country matches one of the options on a hidden list, you are given a riddle that leads to a chest buried in your area. Very fun. However, there are all sorts of problems that occur, like what if the individual lives in a country you couldn’t arrange for a chest to be buried in? Or what if they live somewhere like the US? If they live in Montana, are they really going to drive to New York to dig up a treasure chest of dubious worth? How do I weather-proof the chests? What do I put in them that won’t disappoint someone going through the effort to dig it up? Also, this is definitely more one and done, as once the treasure is found, there’s no point in continuing to seek it. This doesn’t even get into issues like varying legality from place to place, and the logistics of shipping chests internationally and finding local folks to discreetly bury them. Like I said, some problems to work out of this one, but definitely fun.

Anyway, to our more grounded brethren, feel free to tear these naïve thoughts apart, lol. Criticism is welcome, because it can then be addressed, which makes cool things like this slightly more likely to happen. Also, please feel free to offer up any personal lapses in sanity as well; I’d love to hear any feelie-related ideas!

Edited-to-add: Bolded and highlighted key words to make the wall of text more skim-friendly. It was also suggested that @kamineko might have a specific interest in feelies.


I have always wanted to find a treasure chest. I spent a lot of time digging in our backyard when I was a kid. I live in the Texas Hill Country. Somebody please bury a chest for me and send me a map.


That’s still a pretty big area to search! :joy: Texas is pretty big state, after all. If I’m ever in the area, I will definitely keep you in mind. :grin:

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Indeed! I believe that feelies are not merely extras but core elements of a game’s text. This is a ground-level assumption in all of my Infocom writing.

I do wish feelies had a greater presence in contemporary IF and believe that the many digital examples that you provide hold promise. The one thing I would suggest is that an author consider alt-descriptions and other screen reader-friendly features for persons who rely on these technologies.

Since many platforms offer free hosing (WordPress, for instance), it would be easy to mock-up a page to be used in concert with a game. I think a mobile-friendly companion metatext could add a lot to a game, for instance.

Another idea: feature a playlist of songs to reflect a character’s personality or mood.

Neat topic!


I’m quite new to the concept of feelies, but I just wanted to leave a brief note that a lot of these external-to-the-work or physical tie ins are more common in the ARG community (Alternate Reality Game(s)) and that said community could be a good source of inspiration for similar antics! Also, to a lesser extent, in analog horror series.


20 posts were split to a new topic: OMG Crow! [requested topic split]

This reminds me of a series of mystery/detective games I played with my parents, in which the materials include web addresses, email addresses, and even phone numbers which you would have to visit/email/call in order to proceed. It was quite a fun multimedia experience.