Digital toys, generators, sims, interactive experiences, etc. What are your favorite "not games"?


Inspired by the discussion of new names for video games, what are your favorite interactive digital, uh… things that are not games?

Some of my favorite “digital toys”:

Line Rider. Part drawing tool, part physics sim. At one point, it had a huge online community of people making tracks, from early stuff like Jagged Peak Adventure, to highly technical tracks filled with physics exploits like wot, to tracks with huge elaborate drawings that essentially using Line Rider program as Oekaki software.

Falling Sand Game, a sort of minor physics toy genre. Dan-ball’s Powder Game is one of my favorites, and luckily still runs in the brower (many of the older versions used Java or Flash), and features fluid and air pressure simulation in addition to classic sand particle physics.

RJDJ, a dead iOS app. A platform for procedurally-generated music, interactive ambient soundscapes, and other sorts of audio-based toys/experiences. They also released interactive music apps in collaboration with artists like Air and Hans Zimmer. Unfortuately, there’s no way to experience any of this unless you have a old iPhone or iPod Touch with the app already downloaded (or jailbreak an old device and acquire the apps from other sources).

Minecraft probably counts, too. Especially in “creative mode”.


Everything in XScreenSaver

The Hollywood script is real good

bb, but to get the best effect you need to do it yourself in terminal because there is something magical about watching a 3D art demo using just ascii characters


as a kid:


Lego Digital Designer and Bricklink’s are both exactly my jam, but the former got discontinued a while back and the latter isn’t quite up to date enough on parts, so I can’t make the stuff I want to. Luv 2 Play Post-Scarcity Legos.


Oh wow, all of the references in the op brought me some great flashbacks of my earlier internet gaming sessions. For Line Rider in particular, and the sledding game that preceded it, I would make tracks that used the physics to propel the characters in fun loops.

A few other games that come to mind are Garry’s Mod and the much later which apply fun physics tools in a sandbox while pulling on community created content. For Garry’s mod in particular, my friends and I would set up small battlefields or micro-levels for each other to play. I feel like a lot of these games exist in an uncanny-valley area of physics that lead to them being a ton of fun with a bit of experimentation of collective creativity.


Not a specific answer, but messing around with a VST with no real objective in sight is a great way to spend some quasi-creative time. Reason recently made a stripped-down version of their new VST, Europa, available to mess around with on browsers, and I’ve been offering it as a gateway to the “real thing”. Granted, having some knowledge of synthesis probably makes it more enjoyable, but twiddling knobs is fun for the whole family!


Speaking of Reason, the free ios app Figure is fun to noodle around with even though I’m not a musician at all:



PSA: The KORG Gadget for Switch that is fifty goddamn dollars does not let you save or export anything you make in it! Not good!


Interactive music apps like this are very underrated and it makes me happy to hear that non-musical people enjoy using them. I think certain folks get too caught up in the end result (understandably), so when an app allows you to enjoy the experience in and of itself, I’m all for it.

It does let you save project files, but it doesn’t export into any audio formats. It’s a wonky-ass port all around (NO TOUCHSCREEN CONTROLS ON A CONSOLE WITH A TOUCHSCREEN??), though, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you can get the iPad version.


Oh word? My bad, i guess I never saw the option.
Does the iPad version let you export? I’m wondering if I should hope for it to eventually get patched in.


The iPad version has multiple ways of exporting, from transferring to Ableton to Soundcloud to Dropbox etc. etc. It’s really useful, which makes the Switch version even more confounding.

I do hope that means it’ll eventually get a patch for something down the road because all it has now is the very limited video share option, which is about enough to get like 4 bars of song out.


speaking of music toys, Novation made an online replication of the Launchpad that works on a keyboard. you can only use pre-made samples, but that also means that it’s pretty easy to make something that sounds half-decent.


Did anyone else have Spider-Man Cartoon Maker?


My god, I sunk hundreds of hours into that thing growing up. Everything blew up constantly.


I’m fond of SpaceEngine. It’s a to-scale universe sim, and it’s great for anyone interested in astronomy or anyone who wants to be reminded of how insignificant we are in this universe.