Oh Brave New and (Chrome) Extensive World

Some extensions

Over the last while, but most of all over the last couple of days, I’ve been playing around with Chrome Extensions after having them recommended to me as an interesting web-technology thing to play with by Darius Kazemi (the sensei of all such matters). I’m teaching a course on making interesting/arty/playful internet-based things (I know, very precise), and Chrome Extensions are a pretty great addition to the curriculum.

Most of all I’m enamoured of how powerful they feel specifically because they’re operating at the browser level rather than the ‘webpage’ level that I’m normally in control of. So with a Chrome Extension (assuming anyone foolishly agrees to install it) you’re able to affect every page they look at (within some sort of reason I imagine), because your extension operates as part of the browser effectively.

Because I’m just learning this stuff I’m doing kind of stupid ‘example projects’ to get my head around the basics of how they work and to build up some sort of template to work from. This has mostly involved extensions that ‘intervene’ once a page has rendered by altering its CSS or its content, but has also involved injecting a canvas running p5, for example, to do overlays of interactive stuff (well, a red circle following the mouse) or to manipulate page elements (like CSS) over time instead of just once. (Obviously I could do those things outside of p5, but we’re using p5 in my course so I’m bridging from it.)

It seems like there’s a very, very interesting scope for play and even ‘game’ development within this sphere. It makes me think, oddly enough, of real-world play (whether that’s folk games, or LARPing, or ARG perhaps) and how it gets all of this context for ‘free’ from physical reality. Something based on a Chrome Extension could do something like that but with the free context being the internet instead, as someone makes their way through it. (And I’m sure people have already built Chrome Extension games of course – I haven’t checked because I vaguely feel like they’ll be boring – but there does just seem to be a lot of potential here.)

It’s not clear to me I’ll actually go down this road myself, but there’s no questioning it’s an interesting and brave new world. Notably this idea of bringing games out of their little squared off and separated existence inside browser windows or instead applications, and integrating them with ‘real life’ on the internet. So: interesting. You should look into it.

27 October 2015
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