Will Augmented Reality Gaming Be Good?

In its most-frequently-seen state, augmented reality involves pointing your webcam at the particular slice of reality you want to augment and then printing (yes, printing) a symbol on a piece of paper. Put the symbol in view of the camera and a 3-d object is placed in the video. Move the symbol, the object moves. Here’s a straight-forward example.

OK, fine. Sounds cool enough. There are loads of good examples of how different companies and enthusiasts are putting this tech into place for advertising, for fun, or to push the interactive possibilities. ( This site has a list of 35, and is certainly worth a click.) But how will it affect gaming?

A few VG companies have used AR for web advertising: The teaser for Assassin’s Creed 2 features a hidden link which brings up a few 3-d models from the game. Lucasarts has put together a holocomm for a new title, allowing good old Obi-wan to appear in that liney, spectral blue on your desk.

Or at least on the picture of your desk which is displayed on your monitor. This is a main issue for AR gaming — all you’re really doing is setting the background image and moving a piece of paper. Fun, sure, but not likely to be the next big thing.

The place where AR is most likely to find success is with mobile devices. Instead of just making your desk the playing field, you can bring the experience anywhere. The device becomes a magic mirror — look through it and see the world differently.

Take a peek at this trailer for Ghostwire on the DSi. The device becomes a ghost detection machine, and the top screen will allow you to see the creepy buggers hovering right in front of you. The second camera shows them sneaking up behind you. Yikes.

Without getting hands-on with the game, it is tough to tell how much interaction is really available. Is it going to make me walk up to my spooky attic? How would it know?

AR could represent a new off-shoot of the gaming experience, but it is not going to replace the time-honored couch/console union any more than the Wii has. Keep your eyes peeled, and don’t be too surprised if a few years down the line your local paintball/laser-gun maze gleams with the bright blue of handheld console screens.

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