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barcode cards

9 replies [Last post]
Joined: 08/01/2008

I had an idea for a card game with barcodes. Every time you played a card, you would scan the card's barcode and info about the card would pop up on the computer. Does anybody know how barcodes work? Like, if you have a barcode scanner, how do you actually program in what info the different barcodes trigger?

eyerouge's picture
Joined: 07/30/2008
Not that it's what you asked

Not that it's what you asked for, but, this was a "hit" in Japan(?) and some other countries in the 90's or so. There were these portable black cheap LCD computer games called "Barcode Battler", driven by 2 batteries, which allowed 2 players to "battler" by letting them draw a barcode through the games built in barcode scanner (light).

First code drawn would be the warrior (or mage, were different classes). Second and third would be weapons and/or power ups. To summarize: Nobody uses these games anymore, at least not what I know. They also led to some products beeing sold out in Japan since they had "mighty barcodes" for the game ;) ...sounds like a great way for a candy company to raise it's profits.

I recently saw a version of the very same idea in the toy stores here in Sweden, but it was even more scrooge as it only allowed the players to draw certain barcodes which can be bought from the game publisher... which, in my perspective, kind of defeats the whole purpose with the idea.

Just wanted to give you a heads up, and if you're following through, then at least gp grab some of the systems that are out there so you know what can be done differently.

Edit: After re-reading your post I realized nothing I wrote was relevant. Oh well, in any case: It still exists, for playstation or xbox or somethting simillar. Saw it in a commercial, and if I got it right it's a CCG kind of thing with barcodes that generate graphics on the screen when entered. I'm sorry I don't know the name of it... = /

seo's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Barcodes are just numbers,

Barcodes are just numbers, written in a machine-readable form. Once the barcode is read and decoded, it is just a number and you can do with that number whatever you want. So your cards would have a different barcode each, which is read and used to let the program know which card it is, just like a person would by reading a number written on the card; what the software will do once it knows which card you scanned is up to you, I guess.

This page explains the four different methods currently used to read barcodes and retrive the corresponding values:

And bc Tester and bcWebCam are some nice free applications that might be useful for barcode testing. They will let you use a webcam, digital camera or scanner to read the barcodes if you don't have a barcode scanner handy. I'm sure there are some free or cheap SDKs for codebar recognition, but I'll leave that to the programmers.


Joined: 07/22/2008
REAL barcodes are unique.

You buy them from the barcode store.

(I think the game mentioned above might be Eye of Judgment.)

Darkehorse's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Barcodes vs UPCs


You're actually confusing UPC (Universal Product Codes) with barcodes. Barcodes are, as Ariel stated, just a graphic representation of a number. UPCs are numbers purchased from whatever the organization is called that sells them, that retailers can use to database their products. Typically UPCes have a barcode for easier/faster access, but it's not truly necessary.


Joined: 07/22/2008
doho123's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
barcode game, sort of

Aside from the other notes of how a barcode actually works, there are numerous examples of various toys and games that effectively use a barcode, just mechanically (as opposed to optically scanned).

From a game standpoint, I present...The Generals:

(I am lead to believe that the 1970 date should be 1980, but that is besides the point).

Anyway, each piece on the bottom had a molded "barcode" line of, I think, a combination of 8 nubs or lack of nubs. Much like a standard barcode where a black line or white space defines a specific product, this combination of nubs/no nubs defined the piece. Since they were on the bottom, players could not see the nubs.

When the pieces are placed in the "battle slot," the nubs would press down (or in the case of no nubs, not press down) eight little switches. This switch combinations would tell the electronics what kind of piece was being played by each player, and resolve the battle with lights. Ultimately, it was Stratego, except that you never knew exactly what pieces your opponents beat you with, just that they had a a higher value.

Anyway, this little nubs/no nubs trick has been used on many infant toys, I've seen.

InvisibleJon's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008
When in doubt, ask Wikipedia.

"[I]f you have a barcode scanner, how do you actually program in what info the different barcodes trigger?"

I know next to nothing about how to encode data in bar code format, but Wikipedia's entry on Bar Codes is very informative:

It tells you about many different bar code types and sends you toward many excellent books and web-based resources that are certain to more than answer your bar code questions. There's one link in particular that I think you'll find of interest. It's called "make a bar code":

Best of luck,


tdishman's picture
Joined: 08/05/2008
As an app developer, I've had

As an app developer, I've had quite a few turns with barcodes. They're not too difficult to work with, but unless you want to deal with 3D barcodes (that look like a square instead of a traditional barcode) you're going to be fairly limited to what you actually put into the barcode. Generally you would include some sort of object ID that is intended to be looked up in a database to reveal more details. There is no rule as to how long your barcode can be (the more text data you want to include in your barcode the longer the barcode will physically be). But in order to reduce scanning errors and potential for destruction, you're best keeping the data inside the barcode to a minimum.

For a beginner, you should be looking at the 3of9 barcode format. There are many free fonts that you can download to get this barcode into your Photoshop or word processing apps.

Hardware to scan barcodes can also be had for relatively cheap. I've always used hardware that was read from the serial port (using the COM32 library for Windows to detect activity on the scanner). I'm sure there are cost-effective USB alternatives that you can be using. With a solid library to read from the barcode scanner, it can be made as easy to use as reading a click from the mouse.

Dex1138's picture
Joined: 08/13/2008
Not that it really helps your

Not that it really helps your request :) But here's a few more recent barcode games that you can now find in your Toys r Us clearance section

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