PICTURE PERFECT gaming
Revisiting Gaming’s Pixelated Camera History
Apart from its already implied purpose as a tool for photography, cameras have also played an instrumental role as far as video games are concerned. Camera accessories for modern video game consoles, such as the PlayStation Camera and the Kinect 2.0, are packed to the brim with technology, complete with HD resolution cameras and even gesture recognition capabilities – but they didn’t become what they are today overnight though.
This brings us to one of the pioneers of gaming’s camera accessories – the Game Boy Camera. Sold as a separate peripheral for the Game Boy back when it was launched in 1999, it could, for example, take a snapshot of your likeness and transplant the image into compatible games.
Don’t expect captured images to be of high quality though, as the Game Boy Camera can only take black and white images with a resolution of 128 x 112 – a 0.3-megapixel photo has a resolution of 640 x 480 – and a 4-color grayscale palette. It’s not all that bad, once you consider that the full-fledged digital cameras of that era only had 1- to 2-megapixels to work with. What that said, it’s safe to say that the Game Boy Camera served as a catalyst for the development of future camera accessories. It didn’t take long before other console manufacturers jumped in on the uprising camera trend, with Sony being one of those manufacturers. In 2003, four years after the release of the Game Boy Camera, Sony released the EyeToy for the PlayStation 2. The EyeToy had a camera resolution of 320 x 420 which, is not necessarily a huge improvement over the Game Boy Camera, but it was an improvement nonetheless. This was then followed up with the PlayStation Eye in 2007, and finally the PlayStation Camera in 2013, which boasts a 720p camera resolution, facial and voice recognition capabilities.
Not wanting to be ousted by their arch-rival, Microsoft similarly decided to release a camera for their own console, the Xbox. In 2006, Microsoft unveiled the 640 x 480 resolution Xbox Live Vision camera for the Xbox 360. It’s biggest feature was its ability to map your face onto a character in supported games – similar to what the Game Boy Camera could do, but much better and in 3D.
Four years later in 2010, Microsoft revealed the successor to the Xbox Live Vision, called Kinect. It was so well received that it managed to snag the Guinness World Record for being the ‘Fastest Selling Consumer Electronic Device’ – a record that it still holds today. Exactly how fast, you ask? Well, the Kinect managed to sell at a rate of 133,333 units per day for 60 days when it went on sale on November 4, 2010.
Not wanting to lose the massive momentum that they had with the Kinect, Microsoft went on to release its successor, the Kinect 2.0, another four years later in 2014. Despite not being able to generate as much fanfare as its predecessor once did, the Kinect 2 was nevertheless still considered as the most advanced game console camera in the market – and still is, in fact. It’s capable of taking Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) images and videos with its most noteworthy feature being its ability to track your body movement right down to the individual joints – 26 of them, no less – and up to six bodies at a time.
YOU ARE WATCHING BIG BROTHER
Whether we noticed it or not, cameras have also went on to make several appearances within video games.
The first game that comes to mind, which prominently features the use of a camera, has to be Fatal Frame. Launched in 2001, the premise of the game is rather straightforward. Players take control of main character Miku Hinasaki as she ventures into a haunted mansion to look for her brother who went missing upon entering it two weeks before. The only thing between you and a flurry of evil spirits wanting to tear you apart is the Camera Obscura. You could say that the camera works as your third eye, allowing you to see the ghostly apparitions that you otherwise would miss without it.
On the flipside of things, recent games have also started utilizing surveillance cameras as part of the core gameplay mechanics, probably as a reference to the real world, which is slowly but surely heading towards being one big surveillance state.
The most obvious of which is last year’s triple-A title Watch Dogs. It is a game that heavily revolved around the use of surveillance cameras to the point where players had to make use of it in order to progress further in the game. Well, what would you expect? This game does have a hacker of a main character roaming the surveillance-camera-filled streets in an attempt to find the person who’s responsible for the death of his niece. It would be silly for him to not use the available cameras to his advantage, right?
Another game that heavily involves the use of surveillance cameras is the recently remastered game, République. The game, just like Watch Dogs, is set in a dystopic police state where everything and everyone is under surveillance. Your job is simple – to guide the main character, Hope, out of the prison-like building that she is held captive in. The interesting bit is that you don’t see the game from Hope’s point of view, but through the surveillance cameras that are scattered throughout the facility. It looks like the watchdogs are the ones who are being watched now, eh? Whether we noticed it or not, cameras have also went on to make several appearances within video games.
The Go!Cam for the PlayStation Portable is Sony’s version of the Game Boy Camera. It features a 1.3-megapixel camera that captures 1,280 x 960 resolution images and record 480 x 272 resolution videos at 30 frames per second.
Xbox Live Vision
Game Boy Camera
The New Nintendo 3DS XL comes with a sensor above the top screen that tracks your eyes to provide the ideal 3D image of the game you are playing – no
3D glasses needed.
Kinect 2.0 for Xbox One EyeToy for PlayStation 2
Kinect for Xbox 360