Re­vis­it­ing Gam­ing’s Pix­e­lated Cam­era His­tory

GAX (Malaysia) - - FEATURE - By PeterChu

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.


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 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

PlaySta­tion Cam­era

Kinect for Xbox 360

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...

Watch Dogs


Fa­tal Frame

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