Action Bear – A limb-swapping VR experience

When I went to this year’s MIT hackathon (the largest VR/AR hackathon in the world), I wanted to do something different. I had no idea of what to go for, but one question had been stuck in my head the entire day: wouldn’t it be cool if you could remove your limbs (and even your eyeballs) to solve strange puzzles in creative ways? And that was the starting point for what later became Action Bear, winner of the “Best Entertainment Project” award at the hackathon.

The backstory was simple: created by Mego in 1949, a forward-thinking but now defunct toy company, Action Bear was a new toy intended to make children feel safe in their homes in light of cold war hysteria. Unfortunately, as a toy you were never completed (you have no arms!), and you must go on a journey to finish building yourself by completing several puzzles in the abandoned toy factory.

Players can remove eyeballs from their skull to see around corners, amputate their hands and throw them in the distance to reach far away levers, and avoid certain death with a number of h̶i̶g̶h̶l̶y̶ ̶d̶a̶n̶g̶e̶r̶o̶u̶s̶ family friendly tools. At the end of the level players must perform a heart transplant on themselves. Because toys aren’t much if they don’t have a little bit of heart in them.

This project also had an amazing tracklist to accompany it, with hit old tracks such as “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, “Jeepers Creepers”, “I don’t want to set the world on fire”, “If I give my heart to you” and more to accompany you in your limb-bending adventure.

Jokes aside, there were some very interesting takeaways here, specially from a storytelling standpoint. VR games are usually focused in making you feel powerful, and while some of the things you can use as limbs in the game definitely are powerful on their own, I felt quite worthless as a character. Action Bear is an unfinished, useless & limbless creepy toy, and the fact that all the things I used as limbs to accomplish anything were disposable garbage really got to me after a while, making me feel like I had no identity or place in that world.

There isn’t enough experimentation in VR and new media, and Action Bear was a fun experiment that I’d love to see continue.

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