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Think Gamer Is Far-Fetched? Video Game Technology Is Knocking on SciFi’s Door

Tron or Minority Report and thought them the stuff of pure fantasy. But believe it or not, Nintendo and Microsoft are already on the case.

Tron (1982)
OK, so Tron‘s actual technology — namely, a big-ass laser that can transport objects through space — doesn’t exist yet. Still, the basic thrills behind the movie’s action scenes can be replicated right in the comfort of your own home with a Nintendo Wii.

Take the scene where Bruce Boxleitner vaporizes an enemy using a Big Glowing Frisbee of Death (BGFD, for short). Gamers dreaming of their own BGFD can look to the Wii’s MotionPlus (an optional add-on to the standard system), which almost perfectly replicates human hand gestures — like, say, swinging a sword, or shining a flashlight, or throwing a frisbee. While the frisbee minigames found in Wii Sports Resort aren’t terribly exciting, they prove that given enough time and dedication, someone, somewhere, will some day allow us to engage in tactile BGFD fights across the Internet. And on that day, Bruce Boxleitner will cry tears of joy.

Gamer (2009)
We’ve talked about Gamer in some detail, but what of the fictional technology that drives the plot? Could we eventually see a day where one human being could control another through their own body movements?

Probably. Microsoft’s new, remoteless motion-control system (currently codenamed Project Natal until Microsoft realizes consumers don’t want to think of fetuses while purchasing a system) may represent the peak of physical gaming immersion: Natal allegedly tracks the player’s body movements in real time, allowing one to literally raise a hand and watch as their on-screen avatar raises his or her hand at the same time. From there, it’s only a quick hop, skip, and nanomachine-assisted jump to controlling other people’s movements with your own. Granted, that’s a pretty big jump we’re talking about, but the basic technology exists today.

eXistenZ (1999)
Taking a moment to ignore the billion double-crosses and weirdly sexual game consoles, the premise of David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ is pretty simple: A bunch of people sign up to play a video game that is virtually indistinguishable from real life to the point where they begin to question what is the “real” and what is simply a part of the game. Essentially, it’s a slightly more adult version of make-believe, and games like this are successfully produced all the time.

Alternate Reality Games have proven themselves the new, happening way to market your product to consumers in the Internet age. They take advantage of the two biggest fetishes in nerd-dom: solving
puzzles, and feeling like you’re a part of a living, breathing
fictional world. Rather than coming right out and saying, “Hey, go see The Dark Knight, it’ll be really good,” why not leave a bunch of cryptic clues on a fictional Harvey Dent campaign site, which then lead to more clues, which then lead to the coordinates and time for an exclusive showing of the newest Dark Knight trailer? At which point the line between our world and Gotham’s becomes that much fuzzier.

Minority Report (2002)
Alright — so Minority Report isn’t technically a video game movie. Nonetheless, you cannot honestly watch this scene and not immediately want a pair of those kooky computer gloves.

If you’ve got a Wii, you can have them. With a couple of pieces of reflector tape and a little imagination, techie Johnny Lee figured out a way to replicate the Minority Report computer interface using the Wii’s basic hardware. All that remains is for someone to actually combine it with a working operating system. What’s that you say? They’re already doing that? Man. The future is awesome.

Anthony Burch is the features editor for and the co-writer and director of the video series Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’? He recently completed Runner, his first art game.

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