MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. The Los Angeles Auto Show opens to the public today. Auto shows have long been an important showcase for new car and truck ideas. These days, they're ceding some of that space to video games. NPR's Sonari Glinton reports on the convergence between the gaming world and the car.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Drifting is one of those crazy things you should probably only do in a video game but I got to experience it in real life at Willow Springs racetrack in the California desert, where I went drifting with Dai Yoshihara. So what's drifting, anyway?
DAI YOSHIHARA: Drifting, as you are about to experience, is a controlled slide through a series of corners at very high speed.
GLINTON: Yoshihara, real life race car driver and an expert drifter, was at the wheel of a real Toyota Scion taking turns at - okay, to be honest, I would tell you how fast we were going, but I was afraid to look.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAR TIRES SQUEALING)
GLINTON: That thump you just heard was me dropping my microphone. We're going that fast. I lost my microphone and later, my lunch as well. Don't worry, I won't play you that tape. Anyway, using GPS, and detailed scans of cars, roads and racetracks, Sony Playstation re-creates how we just drove on the track inside the latest version of its game Gran Turismo 6, which gets released next month.
Gran Turismo and its competitor, Forza Motor Sports for the Xbox, aren't really games, they're essentially driving simulators. It's not just that video game makers want to simulate the car world, carmakers want a piece of the gaming world and you can see it here at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ladies and gentleman, with its extreme proportions and aggressive appearance, the Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo embodies our design philosophy in a distinctive and fascinating way.
GLINTON: Mercedes-Benz, one of the oldest car makers with some of the oldest car buyers announced at this auto show a concept car. But here's the thing, you can only drive the car in a video game. Hubert Lee is a designer with Mercedes. He says designing an original car that's purely for a video game is a no brainer for a big car maker.
HUBERT LEE: It brings in younger clients to experience the cars, so that maybe one day these gamers - all gamers are not young, but these gamers can actually want to own the car someday.
GLINTON: Meanwhile, Jake Fisher with Consumer Reports says video games could replace the whole dog-and-pony show where a carmaker builds a concept car.
JAKE FISHER: They put a concept car out here at the auto show, and they want to see, do people start yawning or do they start cheering? And you can do that much cheaper in a video game because it's pretty easy to design that car in pixels rather than actually building one.
GLINTON: Increasingly, the line between car geek and video gamer is being obliterated.
ALEC GUTIERREZ: If I had to rank my passion for video games, to be honest, might be on par with my passion for cars. I've been playing games since I was four or five years old.
GLINTON: That's Alec Gutierrez, an economist and auto analyst at Kelley Blue Book. He says as technology gets better, carmakers and game makers are finding more and more overlap.
GUTIERREZ: They have fully rendered interiors. You can go in there and see the stitching on the steering wheel. You can look around in the car. I mean, you look at some of these in-game pictures and compare them to actual shots of the car in the real world and they're almost indistinguishable.
GLINTON: It's got to the point where game designers and car designers kind of go back and forth between car companies and gaming companies. And game designers have been instrumental in helping car companies design displays, consoles and infotainment systems in current vehicles. Gutierrez says this close relationship has the potential to go far beyond basic design and marketing.
GUTIERREZ: There's no reason why a consumer couldn't jump into a game, take a peek around the interior, walk around the exterior of the car, drive it against its relative competitive set, go Accord, Camry, Altima back to back, and really get a sense of what that car is going to perform like on the road.
I don't see why consumers and video game players wouldn't be more willing to not only shop and research, but end up purchasing a car in-game or something along those lines.
GLINTON: That means you'll probably have to be even more careful when you unleash your kid or your spouse on the latest Xbox or Playstation at Christmas. Sonari Glinton, NPR News.
SIEGEL: And Sonari's report wraps up a week of reporting on gaming, coinciding with the release of those two new game consoles. Our games coverage continues online at NPR.org/AllTech.