We love video games, but we also love girls who game. And our favorite girl who games is our homegirl Miss Info (aka Every Rapper's Secret Crush), who will whoop your ass on Xbox Live. We asked Info to get a little hands-on time with Microsoft's much-ballyhood motion-capture device Project Natal (aka the Video Game Peripheral That Sounds Like a Killarmy Album Title). Read on for her take on the technology, and let her know in the comments how much you want her to keep doing gaming stuff with us...
Words By Miss Info
As a rule, gaming doesn't exactly nurture the pink healthy parts of my personality. It's all about dolo time: headshots to zombies, shanking German Shepards, or pretending to be a medieval boy. I don't game to strengthen my core, or learn how to chop veggies, or sing about yellow submarines (although that's all good clean fun). But can a little infared camera change me into a more well-rounded and socialized gamer? Maybe not, but at least Project Natal, Xbox's "next big thing," will get me off the couch.
The add-on device sits under your TV, much like the Nintendo Wii sensor bar, and works with any Xbox 360. New games will be custom-developed to work with the camera, and Xbox says that all the heavyweight developers—Ubisoft, EA, Capcom, etc.— will have Natal-compatible games ready for the Holiday 2010 launch. During the demo, which I shared with a crew of burly Daily Show producers, we tested Ricochet, a game that they described as being "Human Breakout" but ended up being kinda like kickball X "smear the q----r" X bowling.
I stepped up to the TV, and my mirror image immediately appeared onscreen—and by "mirror image," I mean "an outline of a teenage girl with long hair, wide-leg rave jeans and heelies." The sensor can tell if you're a man or woman, longhaired or shorthaired, and give you instant club gear and an inoffensive bodyshape. (Of course, I immediately started plotting to confuse the sensor with a wide-hipped guy friend.) In the game, I hit a bunch of kickballs through layers of barricades, using any part of my body to keep the balls bouncing back and forth. It was fun...and funny, I'm sure, for anyone watching me. One thing that will become clear once Project Natal becomes the new standard for motion gaming: body coordination is verrrrry different from hand-eye coordination—and isn't it the lack of the former that drives many of us to their couches and consoles in the first place?
Also, the freedom of full-body participation came at the cost of game feedback. Unlike with Wii Tennis, there was no controller vibration to tell me I hit the ball's sweet spot. In a driving game, how would I know if I ran over an ethnic stereotype? The possibilities are endless with Natal when it comes to teaching players new dances, or even making sure that yoga positions are done right. Clearly, this is the device that's going to let Xbox address everyone from Wii's casual party gamer to the PS3's hardcore RPG fans. But will I ever fill comfortable making gun fingers to play Modern Warfare 2, Project Natal style? Absolutely not.
But on the other hand, I'm definitely looking forward to the ways that Project Natal could change social networking on Xbox Live. The current webcam is only good for taking a quick pic and using it as your avatar. Lame. But will Natal's camera enable live "ustreaming" while gaming? Or will you be able to insert your full-body avatar into an actual game? (Maybe a real-time dance-off against a faraway nemesis?) Xbox reps say all types of features are in the works, and that Project Natal's voice recognition will let you control your console without controllers. So wait... this may mean the end of those humiliating headsets? THAT'S innovation, people.