One of the things I learned about in Computer Science is a metaphor called Model View Control. Basically, it describes how when we make a program, we should separate a program into three parts: the model of whatever the program does, the way we view that model, and the way we control that model. It’s useful approach when you want to swap in new components – for viewing data (an upgraded graphics engine, perhaps), or control elements of the model from another system (creating an AI or a remote-controlled player.)
It’s also an important idea in User Interface design; for example, a racing game may have an picture of an on-screen steering wheel, which is both a control and a view (since you can steer with the wheel), where a clock is only a view (you can’t change the clock.)
I think it’s fun to break convention, or at least to come up with good enough reasons to break convention, so I’ve been thinking: can you swap the view-controls and the views? What kind of a game could you have if the clock became your major method of interaction with a game?
So here’s a generic top-down racer. Imagine that instead of controlling the acceleration and steering of a vehicle, the computer does all that, while you control the time or speed all of the vehicles. The AI controlling each vehicle has a reaction time and skill for negotiating corners. The faster the game goes, the worse the driving gets. This is more or less the same as a normal driving game, although there are often absolute limits on how fast a course can be driven. How about controlling two cars, then? The aim of the game would be to change the speed of the course to benefit your drivers the most (so they can go fast on the straight stretches, but have time to corner) while disadvantaging the other drivers (leaving them less time to corner) You could also have a separate training mode for “the drivers” where you could control the car directly, improving its overall skill.
Another variant would be to take the terrain itself as the mode of control, as in Populous. By temporarily changing the incline of the terrain, you could benefit your driver – or one player could drive, and another player could fold the terrain. In a 2 v 2 game there could be one driver and one terrain-mover per team. (This brings me to another favourite subject, asymmetric gameplay – but that’s a whole other story).