I finally googled this term recently, having been very confused about it for a while!
Physical items – brochures, photographs, small coins, glow-in-the-dark plastic stones, and other paraphernalia – distributed along with IF software, either purely for aesthetic/immersive value, or to serve as a copy-protection mechanism (offering clues to an in-game puzzle). These were often found in Infocom games.
Some amateur IF has also included feelies, either as accompanying files (webpages offering background for the game, for instance), or in a physical form which the player could order from the author.
The term “feelie” was employed by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World (1932), where it was applied to a kind of movie that offered tactile feedback.
I love that it’s (1) a bit pretentious literary reference (affectionate) and (2) a bit old school copy protection device . . . “if you didn’t buy this game from us you will never solve the puzzle that requires the physical decoder ring!”
I believe the practice really kicked off with Infocom’s Deadline, when there just wasn’t enough memory available to include all the important information on the suspects. So they put all that information into a physical dossier included with the game—which turned out to be a convenient form of copy protection as well, since it was a lot easier to duplicate a disk or cassette than a physical object!
(I know there was a thread a while back about the origins of this practice but now I can’t find it again.)
While memory is cheap nowadays, they’re also very convenient when you want to explain the custom verbs for your ECTOCOMP entry without breaking the four hour deadline! Make a little booklet with graphics showing what the verbs do, and distribute it alongside the game instead of as part of it!
In particular, I couldn’t figure out a non-confusing way to explain these three map-editing actions in plain text, and I’m not fast enough at image editing to do this within the deadline. So now it’s All There In The Manual instead. With any luck, players will turn there when they get stuck instead of just giving up!
I’ve always loved when games come with feelies. Infocom was great, but by no means the only provider of these. PC games other than interactive fiction used to come with maps, blueprints, coins, story books, cut-and-fold cardboard space ships, etc. Some were used for copy protection, but many were just for fun! Even very mundane keyboard overlays were a welcome addition to some games. And you didn’t need to buy some ridiculously overpriced pre-order only ‘limited edition’ to get them either.
Hey! Don’t overpaint this. You’re talking about an era when adventure games cost $40 on the store shelf (in circa-1990 dollars, even).
Nowadays players may like the idea of feelies, but what they really like is seeing games that cost $12 and are marked 50% off in the latest Steam sale. Companies have received that message loud and clear. Physical items are produced in short runs for the loyal fans who are willing to pay extra for them.
Some people, sure. But what companies really like is selling you a $70 digital only copy of a “game” with the bare minimum content and functionality that lets makes you acquire characters, skins, equipment and game modes through subscription driven battle passes, micro-transactions, and bits of DLC that cost almost as much as the game. Why add that cool bit to the game when you can charge extra for it? Multiplayer is also the way to go…not because that’s what people want, but because that’s how you let people show off their digital crap to entice more buyers (via fear of missing out).
I wrote three games that were fully physical, designed to be sent bit by bit through the post and to involve all the senses. The first was a murder mystery that lasted 8 weeks. It’s now a “normal” physical book (with pictures).
The second (steampunk) comes with a song, and a piece of resin art, and a thing that you’re meant to put together. But it was sent as one parcel. It happens at the same time as the third book in my trilogy of novels, and a stripped-down version (text and two artworks) is included in that novel.
The third (fantasy) CAN be sent in three parts, and has some incredibly cool elements including a hand made teddy bear that you stuff yourself at the end.
They all have loads of art by a range of artists, and the first and third had different published authors writing the different characters.
Some time ago, I tried starting a discussion about brainstorming “feelies” for the digital age, basically trying to explore options for feelies that avoided mass-production and mass-mailings. I suspect some of the options discussed might be of interest.
I like feelies also, and they needn’t be expensive. You can provide separately downloadable PDFs of in-game documents or a map.
I made my own feelie for robotsexpartymurder because I wanted the in-game coffee mug I described. I made it on RedBubble for free which is a print/create on demand service so you only pay to have your artifact made and shipped.
I also made some stupid stuff like a clock and shower curtains because it was fun and easy!
It’s one of the items on Redbubble you can put your art on. Now that I look I think I did it but then removed it cuz it was so stupid. I actually really like the clock and coaster set though! You can also make stickers and magnets and a sort of photo/art block that could work as a trophy type thing. The stickers and magnets might be a cool idea if you were going to a meetup and wanted a giveaway promo. One of my favorite ones that could work really well as a feelie is if you made a spiral-bound notebook with your game’s art (or in-game cover) to take notes in.
I almost want to create a game where I could make a notebook where the art includes a hand-scribbled password or passcode on it that might unlock extra features. Or coasters for an in-universe bar/lounge with a phone number written on it.
Thank you! It’s the design I’m most proud of and I’m happy it worked out well with the vibe of the game. I’m weirdly into “branding” games and the Cardinal logo got incorporated everywhere thematically. That’s why I wanted the mug! The whole game is styled with these colors. I’m a huge fan of “cobalt” which is why I use the blue forum theme!
(note adult NSFW text content if not obvious from the title and racy but non-explicit “swimsuit” CGIs of in-game characters)
Surely somewhere on RedBubble someone has made an “Aperture Science” shower curtain based on PORTAL - the entire backstory involves Aperture starting as a shower curtain manufacturer, which would be a perfect feelie!
You should be proud. Love the fact that you got the cardinal colours in there. The yellow beak, the black C surrounded by cardinal red. It would stand up to any logo designed for the real world today. I love geometric shapes.
Maybe Cardinal will find a way into other games you make… or maybe, with your permission, other author’s games.
Oh, and you might know of this movie, but one of my favourite horror flicks is Murder Party. There’s no sex or robots, but 2 out of 4 ain’t bad.