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Tycho / on Wed, Sep 22 2010 at 12:00 am

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The Fashion Imperative

My son and I don’t play very many games together.  Well, we don’t play many videogames; I don’t think we’ve stopped living a kind of game since he was old enough to speak.  The only videogame we have played with any regularity is Spreng Und Abriss, and if you click through there to the video you will understand exactly why.  He played Angry Birds at a friend’s house, and now plays what he calls “Angry Birds RL,” which apparently means Real Life, because it is essentially a game where he stacks things up and then hurls his entire body at them, resulting in injury.  I don’t know if the injuries are required exactly, but they do seem to accompany every round, so who knows.

The existing Move lineup doesn’t have many things I want badly, and between King’s Bounty, Civilization V, and Etrian Odyssey - any one of which could absorb every moment of surplus time - I can’t go through my ordinary process of buying things just to verify that I don’t like them for the right reasons.  I do have the hardware, though.  And I do have EyePet.  Or maybe he has us?  You could make the argument.

EyePet doesn’t have the constant calibration some Move titles do, because it doesn’t need to - the camera is always focused on your room.  If you don’t have the controller where the camera can see it, you can’t really play; it’s self-regulating that way.  This focus they’ve got in their advertising about having buttons is kind of stupid and reductive - buttons are great, what makes the Move special isn’t its button-havingness, but its ability to map three dimensional objects into a video playfield.  This is ridiculously cool, and is far and away the neatest implementation of the tech.  It’s also the piece that works best - occasionally you’ll get something cool and organic out of the non-Move interactions, but when you’re actively trying to get them, good luck.

After grooming our creature’s silken coat, feeding him, and haunting him with an elastic spectre, I set the controller down and went into the kitchen absolutely intent on securing string cheese.  As I came back to the room, I could hear my son speaking to George - the George The EyePet - showing him his dogs Saucy and Fairly, teaching him about tower cranes and magnets, applying tiny scritches directly to the belly.  There are missteps and ambiguous interpretations, certainly.  But there are points in the trajectory of the experience where imagination and the technology precisely overlap, and it’s priceless.

In a better universe than ours, the Bocce game in Sports Champions would be a kind of runaway meme.  It really has it all: the first throw sets the “target” for that round, the ball you’re aiming for with your other shots, so every game is different.  It’s skill based, but because the skill in question is “underhand throwing” modelled with real smarts on a deeply aware device, you approach the game and play it at your level - whatever that level might be.  Don’t count it out until you’ve played it competitively - God only knows how this thing got out the door without online support, but if you get somebody else in the room to play with you I’d be incredibly surprised if you only played once.

(CW)TB

thou art born


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