3D Printing in Gaming

My last post, ‘Let me project you back in time,’ explored the history of projection as a means of gaining a better understanding of the potential of projection with close reference to the game I am designing in DIGC310 which uses projection as its main mechanic.

In Marshall McLuhan’s book, 1964, ‘The medium is the message’ he states “A light bulb does not have content in the way that a newspaper has articles or a television has programs, yet it is a medium that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness.”

Over the last 7 weeks I have been experimenting with my projection game, Reflectand have begun to understand the value and potential of projection. In attempting to construct a draft of my game, I have been experimenting with different light sources, light directions and materials, which have all highlighted the challenges and positives of using light. One of the main positives I found was the ability to create a social effect through the use of projection, creating a specific environment, this works well in highlighting (for players) the potential of projection as well as the spacial reality it creates.

In drafting my game, I discovered that the best way to create my version of the ‘Magic lantern’ was to 3D print the pieces, so that each piece could be detached and each player could have there own mini lantern to play with, while also creating a multifunctional game and having the pieces stacked on top of each other to create something new. Without 3D printing this wouldn’t at all be possible, so within this post I am going to be researching 3D printing within gaming in order to link the history of projection which I have already spoken about and my mechanic that I am in the process of making.

In reversing the idea of digital to analogue, I am exploring the potential of gaming as a tangible object rather than digital to highlight McLuhan theory, ‘The medium is the message,’ as well as showcasing the potential of projection in analog gaming.

There is much debate today surrounding 3D printing within the gaming world, many believe that 3D printing is beneficial in the sense that 3D printed objects can be easily shared for free and collaboratively worked upon in order to discover its potential, whereas others believe that with 3D printed objects becoming ‘free,’ gaming companies may lose a significant amount of profit due to IP and licensing deals.

A company called U-dimensions seems to understand this problem and states, “U-Dimensions’ goal is to make it easier for game companies to develop and expand their merchandise line, and allow them to gain extra profit from games,” the company says. “The unique, and free platform makes it possible for game companies to reach a larger audience, and allows for a variety of 3D printing merchandise options. Our software allows for company’s 2D or 3D game elements to be automatically converted into 3D-print ready elements. The free model also allows game companies to gain commission while U-Dimensions take care of production and distribution.”

U-dimensions suggests that they are helping in generating profit for gaming companies, the website also targets the low quality of mass produced games. In opening up a 3D market in which game companies can use to generate their own customised pieces, it reduces or even eliminates the problem of gaming companies losing attainable profit while making a higher quality game.

On the other hand U-dimension limits the potential of gaming mechanics/pieces to be manipulated by its audience. For instance, my game, Reflect, could come with generic pieces but people can also create or download additional pieces in order to add to the game and change the difficulty and aesthetic etc.

Digital leisure Cultures mentions Cubify and Shapeways (3D printing companies) which “offer objects for sale and provide digital files of their prototypes for download by people who may want to fabricate them for themselves or learn from their design.” Its important here to mention that these websites encourage collaboration and creation in order to help further the potential of certain mechanics in gaming as well as helping people learn about 3D printing.


This got me thinking about the marketing of Reflect, do I want to give the files to the public in order for them to 3D print the game for free? It sounds selfish but for something I have worked hard on, I believe there should be some recognition much like many other 3D games that you can print for free on the internet. After looking at the above companies and the different ways they approach the gaming market however, I see a lot of value in people being able to access files and add to the potential of the game. It also adds to the idea of the ‘ecology of gaming’ which focuses on how we participate as gamers, producers and learners. Therefore, if I was to market Reflect, I would sell the original game with generic ‘starting’ pieces but also create other pieces which people can download and manipulate for free in order to add to the potential and aestetic of reflect as well as helping people learn about the design of the game.


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