First-person video games are all very well and good, but there’s no getting around the fact that the person/vehicle that you’re controlling doesn’t really exist. If that sort of thing bugs you, then you might like Dive Commander – it’s a web-based game, in which you control an actual, physical mini-submarine via your computer.

Dive Commander is the creation of Idaho-based tech firm Reach-In, formerly known as AprioriControl. The company previously brought us iPet Companion, a system in which users can play with dogs and cats at animal shelters in real time, via remote-control toys and a live video feed. A home version of the system is also available.

In the new game, players view live video from a camera mounted inside a tethered mini submarine, which is itself located inside a tank of water decorated with rocks, gravel, plant pots, and other items. Using the interface controls on the Dive Commander website, users can turn on the sub’s external lights, then move it up, down, forward, backward, left or right. Controlling it does take some practice, as it has a tendency to keep drifting after the controls are released – that’s part of the fun, though.

Instead of just aimlessly bumping around the tank, players are tasked with looking for clues that they can use to answer four questions surrounding the sinking of a fictitious ship. Each player gets a two-minute block of playing time, after which they have to rejoin the queue. A second player can join in while another is piloting the sub, however, causing disruptions such as bubble streams and flashing strobe lights, to make the sub pilot’s job more difficult.

Right now, the game can be played free of charge. In a future pay-to-play version, however, correct answers to the questions will result in free minutes of subsequent game play. Down the road, Reach-In hopes that the game could be used by public aquariums to raise funds and increase awareness of the facilities’ programs, thereby boosting donations and sponsorships – much as iPet Companion has done for animal shelters.

View gallery - 5 images