Realistic Video Games Stir Uneasy Feelings

Video gaming is changing, becoming more interactive and realistic. Digital writer David Kushner speaks with host Liane Hansen about these changes and how gaming is starting to remind him of the film Minority Report.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

There are lots of new video games on the shelves this holiday season, but some of them are not like the games you've seen before. Digital culture commentator David Kushner joins us from our New York bureau to tell us more. Hi, David.

Mr. DAVID KUSHNER: Hi.

HANSEN: All right. So, what's so different about these new video games?

Mr. KUSHNER: What's different about them is that they're becoming more and more like real life, specifically with regard to how we're controlling them. You know, in the past when you used to play a game, you would plug in a joystick and you would basically use that to do any kind of action on the screen. Then Nintendo came out with the Wii, which has the motion-sensing remote that you hold in your hand to play tennis and games like that. It's really making the games feel more realistic and intuitive and getting more people to play.

HANSEN: So, what video games do you think are worth playing this season?

Mr. KUSHNER: Well, one of the ones that's a good example of this is called DJ Hero. Instead of using a guitar to play, you use a controller that's actually shaped like an old turntable, an old record player. So, you get to scratch the turntable, platter back and forth and there's a knob where you get to fade from one track to another. It's a bit tricky, I think, for kids who would play Guitar Hero and feel like they know what they're doing, but it really does appeal to kind of older, geeky music fans.

And then there's also Modern Warfare 2. Now, this doesn't really sport a new kind of controller, but it is about as realistic as gaming gets today. Everything's unfolding from a first-person point of view. It's incredibly responsive to everything you do. I mean, when you bust into a room into a fire fight, you know, ceiling fans are dropping from the ceiling around you and debris is swirling in the corners. So, it's about as much of kind of an immersive action experience as you can get.

HANSEN: And so what's the buzz for 2010? What will gamers be talking about next year?

Mr. KUSHNER: This whole idea of a controller is really going to transform. It's going to start to actually go away. Microsoft has something called Project Natal. It's a motion-sensing camera that plugs into your Xbox, and you just basically just stand in front of it. It instantly maps where you are, and then to control the action on the screen, you literally just move your body and your hands. If you want to drive a car, you just reach out and act like you're holding a steering wheel and start turning it. If you make a throwing gesture, that's how you throw a baseball.

What's also interesting is that people are talking about these applications beyond gaming. So, if you remember in the movie "Minority Report," there's this really memorable scene of Tom Cruise and he's kind of reaching out and flipping through virtual documents just by moving his hand, and this is really what we're moving towards. It's the next step of machines becoming more aware and really being able to see us. And often you see the first manifestations of this in the gaming world. So, this is really going to be, I think, exciting next year when it comes out.

HANSEN: David Kushner is a writer who covers digital culture, and he joined us from our New York bureau. Thank you, David.

Mr. KUSHNER: Thanks.

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