Earlier this summer, Microsoft unleashed its newest innovation, a hands-free motion-sensitive control system that would allow a player to control the action of games with full body movement. Project Natal does this without making the user strap on a single sensor! Instead, it uses a self-contained module that is simply added onto the Xbox 360. The video camera in it tracks body placement and movement, reads depth, tracks 48 of your body’s joints, and can track multiple players. Project Natal can even differentiate your patterned shirt from the pattern on the upholstery and your voice from background noise. This bold project completely eliminates the need for hand-held controllers and allows the player to more fully immerse themselves in the world of the game.
So what does this mean for serious gaming? Obviously, seamless interaction between player and game means that simulations can be that more engaging, life-like, and therefore educational. For serious games such the army training game that we discussed earlier or flight simulations, the applications are immediate and clearly beneficial. Project Natal can sense and track a person crawling on the floor like a war simulation, or can sense a pilot’s motions in a game simply by having the player hold out his hands as though he is holding onto a wheel. In this way, it can give people extra experience in physical tasks that are otherwise hard to simulate.
But it seems that Project Natal will have serious application to other simulations that don’t focus on physical dexterity, including business simulations. In one demo of Project Natal, a woman interacts with a boy called Milo onscreen. Milo converses fluently with the demonstrator, picking up her mood by the tone of her voice and responding accordingly, and “taking” a picture she drew from her — and he recognizes it as an orange fish! There is a lot of potential for such intelligent, sensitive characters to interact with people in business simulations. Much of the job of a CEO is interaction with people, be they clients, workers, or peers. If Microsoft can actually pull of such detailed, responsive characters, the potential for serious gaming of all sorts is astounding.
Microsoft has yet to announce when Project Natal will become available, but keep your ears open for this exciting new development in gaming. Until then, game your heart out with other serious games, including, of course, the CEO Game.
The CEO Game.