I was talking to a friend about using printed electronic gaming cards which he has designed and built and combining such a physical game with an online world (MMORPG).
The idea was simple.
In the offline world a sorcery style competitive card game, with each player taking the role as a wizard in combat. Each player puts a spell card into the electronic reader, which determines who wins the round (and therefore keeps the card). A sort of my card trumps yours.
In the online world, with your electronic reader attached to your PC, then if you have the right cards it would provide new quests for your online character.
The rules were simple, the electronics possible and hopefully mainly printable - hence low cost.
With ideas like these you know instinctively that someone else is always playing around with such concepts, even in a different form, and sure enough we found it.
It reminds me of eight months I spent writing a book (unfinished) in 1993. The story was based upon a concept of a person who discovers (by being rescued) that he has been living in a virtual world.
It starts with him waking up after a nightmare of drowning in a tube full of a gelatinous liquid with "chains" around him. Of course when he is rescued he finds he has been living in a tube full of gelatinous liquid with cables all connected into his body. He is just one in a cavern of tubes and so the story goes on to the rescuers, the freedom fighters against this slave world etc.
Anyway, I talked to a number of friends and others around Cambridge about the concepts and story, got sucked into other activities and left it at that. Many years later a friend told me about this film called the Matrix, and many of the concepts in that film were similar.
Since then I have met other people who have independently worked on "Matrix" like concepts and as everyone knows the grand-daddy of this all, is of course Plato, so he trumps everyone by a few thousand years.
Just goes to show you, anytime you think of an idea it is likely that someone, somewhere else in the world is independently thinking or has thought of the same idea.
What matters though is not just the idea, but the execution and making it happen.
i.e. for something not to be worth the paper it is printed on, it first has to be printed.