SNEAKY CACTUS

computer game, custom game controllers, live succulents
2015

Live cacti serve as game controllers in a succulent racing game for two players. Each cactus corresponds with a direction in-game. When a player touches a real-life cactus, a virtual hand enters the screen and prods its virtual counterpart. If the on-screen character gets spun around, a motor activates and the physical cacti suddenly rotate to match. Painful puncture wounds from barbed needles disrupt the normally desirable 'flow' of game play, and the controller itself gradually wilts as players poke and prod its fleshy buttons.
"Ow," Chris DeLeon says, wincing as he grasps the controller of his video game. "Ow."

Sure, the game is epically frustrating, but DeLeon's anguish isn't mental. His joystick is a cactus.

"Ow. I don't understand what makes it turn," DeLeon says. He tentatively holds one of the four little cacti in a small pot and wiggles it. On the screen projected in front of him, a blue face surrounded by cacti moves slowly through the desert.

But then, the pot containing his "joystick" rotates on a mechanical wheel and the cactus with the small harmless nubs slips out of his grasp and he is raked by a larger cactus with long, porcupine-like quills.

"Most cactus have a soft spot," he says. "I grabbed the one with the least spines. But sometimes it moves and that's when you get pricked. Ow. OW."

- CBC News: Cactus Joysticks Among Many Curios at LA Games Fest