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October 12, 2003

Physical Gaming

We fell out of anti-consumer mode with a big bump yesterday. First I had an intimate moment with the Apple Store; some of you may not be counting down hour by hour to the release of your next operating system upgrade, but for those of us with fewer Macs than people in the house, Fast User Switching is a killer app; we have a child-friendly, stripped down desktop (with a Hello Kitty background) for Marianne, and an even simpler one for Jonathan. And now they'll only be a click away.

And then mid-afternoon we popped into Currys in search of very cheap video recorders. They didn't have any; there seems to be a price below which videos do not fall. But we noticed that the Playstation 2 can now be bought, bundled with an EyeToy, for 139.99. Woo, that's cheap. That's cheaper than I've previously seen a PS2 without an EyeToy. I've been faunching after a PS2 for a while; there are more dance games available for it, and the next Dancing Stage game, while it comes in both PSOne and PS2 versions, has more songs in the PS2 version, including Come on Eileen. And the EyeToy looks like fun. And I wanted to buy a board controller and play SSX. So we left with a big pile of boxes.

It's now about a day later. Steven and I are both knackered from the effort of trying to control a snowboarding game with a board controller. I bought a Gamester Sportsboard in the end; it's relatively tiny (I mean, tiny for a huge physical controller). It acts as the directional and speed controls when playing; you plug a regular controller into it as well to manage your tricks. Unlike dance mats or racing wheels, there's no suggestion that you can control the game more easily with a board; it's incredibly difficult to start with, and after a dozen goes each, we're just about at the stage where we rarely randomly fall off the mountain any more (though falling off the mountain is a major tactic in SSX, don't get me wrong). Another couple of weeks and we'll be playing at about the level of Rank Beginner. Various unaccustomed muscles ache.

Meanwhile, the EyeToy turned out to be better value than I was expecting. It links a USB camera that sits on top of your telly, with a set of little games that you control with your body. It's clearly a good cheap thrill to be able to see yourself on screen, and the controls (you wave at various bits of the screen to make things happen) are simple enough for Jonathan. The twelve mini-games are very simple; proof of concept rather than anything else. To win them you have to bounce around and wave your arms a lot. There's also a playroom for freeform bouncing around, allowing kids to see themselves onscreen in a variety of different environments. One of my children's favourite exhibits at the Science Museum is a room that displays multicoloured patterns as they dance; one of the dozen EyeToy playroom modes replicates this.

They played with EyeToy for much of the morning, and then challenged us to a series of family battles. The grownups won most of them, but it's not all that common to find physical games that adults and three year olds enjoy playing together.

Marianne and Jonathan washing windows

My theory? The next generation of EyeToy will be motorised, and user IDs will remember how tall people are; when you load it, it will automatically swivel up for Steven and down for Jonathan.

Posted by Alison Scott at October 12, 2003 01:22 PM

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Tracked on November 4, 2003 01:33 PM


Alison, you are without a doubt, one of the worse anti-consumers I have ever met.

x Sue

Posted by: Sue Mason at October 15, 2003 10:07 AM

She's the anti-anti-consumer. Hmm. Double negative. Wait, I'm an American, I can do that!

Posted by: Erik V. Olson at October 17, 2003 03:58 AM

Please, Erik. You must study irony from the only people capable of it.

Posted by: Gary Farber at October 19, 2003 08:23 PM

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