by Rob Ford
For each installment of this column, I usually choose 8–12 of the hottest sites in any category. But for this installment, I'm doing something slightly different. Here I have chosen nine sites that all fall into the same category. These are all sites that you actively participate in — by playing a game, uploading your picture, or interacting in another significant way — to get the most out of each online experience.
December is the month for giving, and I can think of no better way to give than to share with you several fun links that show you the best of what's online today. So I hope you enjoy this column, and I wish you all happy holidays and a prosperous 2009.
First of all, Hotel 626 is only open at night. Why? Because it's scary at night. You're trapped in a haunted hotel and believe me, it's truly haunted. Even the entrance page sends a chill down my spine. The site plays out in first person with lots of heavy breathing. It is particularly impressive because it embraces all the latest options in website interaction by using your webcam, your microphone, and even your mobile phone. If you want to experience this site full-force, then lock your doors, draw the curtains, put your headphones on, wait until midnight, and…don't blink.
For those of you who are either too impatient or scared of the dark, you can change the time on your computer to access this site before its opening hours (just remember to change your clock back when you are finished).
Site by Kinetic Singapore
Can you imagine how boring a site for nonfat frozen yogurt could be? Well, go to the other end of the spectrum, and you end up at Sour Sally's. As the site says, you get to join Sour Sally on her wonderful escapade. Take a moment to read the instructions, which are pretty simple. You basically use your mouse to fly, your arrow keys to walk, and the spacebar to jump. What are you waiting for? Grab a balloon and get going. Or jump on the tea cake for an extra bouncy start.
Site by group94
Yet again this year, Ubisoft has pushed the envelope with another progressive promotional site for one of its leading titles, Far Cry 2. The company teamed up with group94 to bring you this experience site that sets you on a journey covering 50 square kilometers of African mayhem. One of the best things about this site is that you almost feel like you are playing the real game. You certainly get a taste of the real thing, which is exactly what this type of site should offer. The multiple scenarios you encounter are influenced by your decision-making along the way, so keep an eye out for the bazooka and blow up everything in sight.
You know things are changing in the world when a government agency — this time from Canada — gets really creative online. This site is all about saving energy. If that sounds boring, then just grab Energuy's hand and away you go. The unique navigation on this site is superb. You completely control Energuy, and wherever you move your mouse, he follows. Click objects and items you think are not being energy-efficient to succeed in your mission. But beware that if you don't save enough energy, you could be in for some crowd heckling and raspberries.
Site by Achtung!
How can I write a column that doesn't include a car site? This one is totally different. Rather than telling you what a car can do or what features it has, this site actually shows you how things work and what happens when they are applied correctly vs. incorrectly. Click the Start button, and buckle up. Each scenario gives you several options to choose from, and the correct options often show some amusing video highlights.
Site by Assai AG
It's time to bust some moves. Use your mouse to match the rhythm of the play zone, and watch yourself perform some spectacular acrobatic moves in your very hip apartment on various objects, such as a sofa and a pinball machine. This full-screen video game is a simple idea that I haven't seen before. The site's success means that we will inevitably see more sites like it in 2009.
Site by VanBeater
Some of you will remember Fly Guy from a few years ago, which was also created by VanBeater. That was a huge success, so I was eager to see what CrappyCat had to offer when I received the link. Needless to say, it's another interactive, animated masterpiece. Just use your arrow keys to explore and experience many visual delights and surprises as you take on the role of CrappyCat. Sites like these make you realize that there are people out there with some wild imaginations — lucky for us.
Site by Kilo Studio Private Limited
It's time to fly again. This is a surreal journey into the heavens. The level of intrigue will keep you glued to this site until you reach the top. When the site loads, choose an avatar such as Superman, grab your keys (well, your arrow keys at least), and head upward. As you fly, you will see numbered stars, which you can collect. This is certainly a journey of discovery and wonder with some beautiful artwork. Don't miss it.
It's always nice to end on something wacky, so how about making a baby without actually making one? Here's your chance to see what your baby would look like by uploading your photo and your partner's. Or better yet, combine your face with the face of someone famous. I made a Rob Ford and Madonna baby. Let's just say that the end result wasn't what I expected, so my teenage dreams of Madonna just went up in smoke.
Upload your photo sites have been overdone in the last few years, but this one for Volkswagen offers something different, purely by the creative idea it works on. So what are you waiting for? It's time to start making babies.
All the sites in this edition are from the last couple of months. This really does indicate that we are experiencing a new trend. As with all trends, if you are the trailblazer or if you execute at the highest level, you will stand out from the crowd, and others will follow you. These sites are definitely trailblazing. Because we credit the agencies that create the sites I feature in my columns, you can keep your eye on these trendsetting companies. They are definitely the ones to watch.
Rob Ford founded The FWA Network in May 2000 and since then the network has received over 150 million visits. The FWA Network showcases projects that use cutting edge technology for desktop, mobile and offline, together with showcases for photography as well as video. Rob is also the author of three bestselling books of web and mobile. Check out The FWA Network.