Monday, September 25, 2006
I can see clearly now
Do you remember the Sony Eye Toy? I used to have one. I never used it but my kids sure enjoyed it. Nice gimmick. It got my kids into some fun high energy games and they liked seeing themselves on TV.
The Xbox Live Vision camera is not the Eye Toy. Oh sure, at first glance they seem identical but the purpose of Vision is specifically for online play, something Sony has always sucked at. Seeing other gamers as you play poker (not available yet but sometime soon), UNO, or a bunch of other card games is something adult gamers will do, not kids. Which is perfectly fine with me.
Last Friday I picked up my Vision camera, which came with a free UNO download and headset for $40. A pretty good deal if you ask me, especially considering that when the Eye Toy first came out it was $100. After plugging it into my USB port, I was instantly ready for action. I sent a family picture to my brother and started playing UNO with a bunch of other gamers online, most of whom had Vision cameras as well. Here's the good and the bad things I've discovered so far.
Less trash talking. The best part about playing people online who you don't know, but can see, is that all of the trash talking seems to vanish. Pretty much everybody is polite. Its kind of hard to curse at someone when they're staring right at you. Imagine how much less crap you'd have to listen to in Halo if you could see some of these jerks who do nothing but throw insults at everybody. It also sort of requires you to talk to other gamers. Would you sit around a table and just ignore the person across from you? I doubt it. Connecting with other gamers is always a good thing.
Video Chat. I've only heard of video chats for businesses and the occasional NFL Network training camp cam, I've never done one before. But when I quickly linked with my brother (see the grainy photo I took with my cell phone above) I was happier than Roseanne Barr at an all you can eat buffet. I showed him my old school John Elway jersey I just bought and my daughter's hockey player grin after she had two teeth fall out. My son was then kind enough to take my Master Chief and Snake action figures and perform a puppet show for him. It was hilarious.
Now what? Okay, so I can video chat with my brother. Cool. I can play UNO and a few other games online and see my opponent. Also cool. But what else can I do with this camera? At some point I'm supposed to be able to put my face into games. This sounds great. I've always wanted my mug in my Madden created player instead of a shadow. But right now there aren't any games available to do this with. I just hope Microsoft has plans to use the camera properly. If done right, it could really be something gamers want. Hopefully, it won't fall into gaming oblivion like the Eye Toy did - just another camera with untapped potential.
Its not for everyone. I know some gamers who love racing wheels. I personally can't stand them. Just like all video games aren't for everyone, neither is the Vision camera. While I enjoy playing against other gamers online who also have the camera, I wouldn't have bought it if my brother didn't get one as well. Who would I video chat with? Who would I send pictures to? I have quite a few friends on Xbox Live. But like most people, I don't really know many of them. With my brother its different. So if you don't have a friend or two that you don't get to see very often but keep in touch with frequently, you don't really need the camera.
So do I get it or what?
If you have someone you can use this with right away or are really into seeing other gamers during online play, sure. The $40 price point might be attractive to the curious. But if you're looking for a camera that actually does something that enhances game play, I'd hold out for awhile. Wait and see if this is going to make a good gaming experience, great or if its just another gaming gimmick.