Contextualizing: Getting in the Game

June 11, 2009sparxoo_admin

video game strategic development and business future growth

Photo by barunpatro from Stock.Xchng

By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

Left + Left + A was the code for one of the best moves in Mortal Kombat for Sega Genesis. When playing as Scorpion, the code would prompt him to shoot an arrow from his wrist that pulled the other player towards him (“Get over here”) to allow for a free shot (upper cut always worked the best). It was the easiest and most effective move in the book. In today’s world, Left + Left + A is an equation for static play. Wii Sports sold over 40.5 million copies (partly because of sales bundles) since April 2008 and Resident Evil 5 took the number one position in best game sales in March 2009.

Now, if you’re even sitting on a couch, codes for special moves have been replaced by a completely engaging, first person experience such as a terrorist hunter (Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six) or as a builder (urban climber, Mirror’s Edge). The next major component in complete engaging game play is context—whether it’s your movements or cognition. We’ll explore the different applications for contextual play for traditional gamers and non-gamers that are expanding the user experience in fresh, interesting ways.

If you’re not on the couch, you’re probably punching the air in a virtual boxing tournament or strumming your plastic guitar because you’re a Rock God. Nintendo’s Wii revolutionized the gaming experience because it incorporated a highly interactive gaming experience, with a back-to-basics concept: fun. Even eighty-four-year-old Dorothy Asher can pack a punch to Mike Tyson. With over 50 million consoles sold, the Nintendo Wii brought a different experience to gaming, and effectively revolutionized the industry.

What’s the next step? The accelerometer in the Wii-mote contextualizes movements and translates those into the Wii-world. The Emotiv EPOC headset contextualizes thoughts and translates those into your game. The Emotiv EPOC headset is the first Brain Computer Interface (BCI) to hit the gaming industry. Simply put: your thoughts are your new controller. BCIs are typically used for people with disabilities or paralysis to control a wheelchair or communicate using a keyboard. The Emotiv EPOC uses a small, non-intrusive headset that can recognize 30 unique emotive cues to control the virtual environment. These emotive cues are the brain’s real-time activity patterns—in the form of electroencephalogram (EEG) signals. Though this technology might sound desperately futuristic, it is in the here and now. The Emotiv EPOC headset will hit store shelves later this year, with a mere $299 price tag.

Today, console developers like Microsoft, Nintendo and tech-savvy, imaginative entrepreneurs are finding new ways to draw gamers further into the virtual world. Nintendo’s portable gaming device, the DSi, is using a camera to bring the gamer into a different world. Wario Ware: Snapped! utilizes the DSi camera to let gamers grab virtual coins. Wario is an example of how gamers are moving evermore towards total physical immersion in the virtual world. The next step? Expect BCI combined with head tracking, best compared to viewing the world through a picture frame, to be amongst the next evolution of game experience.