Digital Life

Video Games Make a Splash at E3 Show

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Nintendo's Wii system, to be released at the end of 2006, will use a wireless controller that lets p

Nintendo's Wii system, to be released at the end of 2006, will use a wireless controller that lets players manipulate the action by moving the controller itself. Nintendo hide caption

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Faster processors, better graphics — and a cooler design — are on display at the 2006 E3 (Electronics Entertainment Expo) in Los Angeles, where Sony, Nintendo and other video game makers try to impress attendees. Among the hits so far: a Playstation 3 demo and Nintendo's Wii.


From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

The devices that will soon memorize your child, your husband or possibly you, those devices get an industry airing this week in Los Angeles. They are games. Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii and others are being unveiled at an event titled 2006 E3. That's E3 as in E to the third power. The Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Boston Globe technology reporter Hiawatha Bray is there in Los Angeles. What does it look like?

HIAWATHA BRAY: Oh, the usual mess. Thousands of people milling around thinking that they're having fun and in many cases succeeding.

SIEGEL: I want you to tell us a little bit about Playstation 3, which one of my colleagues here tell me, for those who buy it, it will be the most powerful computer likely in their home.

BRAY: That's almost certainly true. Sony worked with IBM and IBM used a version of the chip that they build into some of their mainframes and super computers, but then they actually added enhancements to it. It basically acts like nine separate computer processors on one chip. They call this the cell processor and, yeah, quite frankly it's going to be an insanely powerful machine.

SIEGEL: What will one be able to do? What game will one be able to play with this insanely powerful machine that will take advantage of all of that computing power?

BRAY: Well at this point, the main thing they're trying to do is figure out how to make the games more visually realistic in terms of the movements of objects, in terms of the movements of characters. How many objects you can have on the screen running around at the same time.

There is a lot of emphasis put on a concept that's known in gaming as physics. That means the way things interact with each other. When you bump into something, does it move? When you shot something, does the bullet hole look realistic? I mean, they want to get it to a point where the bullet, you can tell the angle at which the bullet went into something. When something blows up, you want to be able to see the different pieces of it flying around in all directions and you want them to be recognizable pieces. Yeah, that used to be somebody's head. Yeah, that used to be somebody's arm. That's what they're working on and they need that much computing power to do that.

SIEGEL: Needless to say, the stuff of gaming nowadays involves a lot of bullets, bombs and bodies being dismembered.

BRAY: Well, that depends. We're talking here about Sony but I also just got through looking at the latest stuff from Nintendo, and Nintendo takes a very interesting and very different philosophy towards gaming. Don't misunderstand. They're going to have some very violent games, too, including one called Red Steel that looks quite exciting. But Nintendo believes the real future of gaming is in getting more and more people to play games who don't play them now. They know that lots of people who don't play games right now are not into that kind of stuff. So they have had huge success particularly in Japan with games that have nothing to do with that kind of violence at all. For example, the brain games. They sold six million games over there that purport to teach older people how to use their brains better.

SIEGEL: Now how much would Playstation 3 cost when it's on the market?

BRAY: Playstation 3, the basic model is going to cost $500. That compares to $400 for the basic X Box 360.

SIEGEL: And lastly, Hiawatha, is there any particular game that you've seen there that seems to break new ground? Now not the hardware, but the actual game?

BRAY: I would say that the most interesting looking game I've seen so far is called Red Steel. It uses this controller that Nintendo has come up with to let you sword fight as well as engage in shoot outs in a way that nobody has really done before. I think it is pretty technically impressive. But it's also very violent.

SIEGEL: Hiawatha, thank you very much for talking with us once again.

BRAY: Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

SIEGEL: That's reporter Hiawatha Bray of the Boston Globe. He was talking to us from Los Angeles where he is covering the Electronic Entertainment Expo, E3.

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