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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

June 13, 2011 at 9:37 AM

E3 notebook: Sensor mounts, stats and “Star Wars”

LOS ANGELES — There’s another real-estate crisis happening, causing all kinds of grief for people who own multiple video-game systems.

The latest gear from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo requires more than just a box sitting below the television.

To play their motion-sensing games, you also must mount a sensor unit on or near the TV. If you have more than one console, it gets tricky figuring out where to put all of these peripherals.

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It’s going to get worse. Google, Cisco, Logitech and others are pushing TV video-chat systems that require their cameras to be mounted somewhere next to your set.

So it’s no wonder there was a lot of interest in an odd little gadget on display at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, in the no man’s land of aftermarket game-accessory booths.

Called the TriMount, the $30 device clamps up to three different sensors onto the top of a TV set.

Torrance, Calif.-based dreamGEAR will begin selling it Aug. 15.

There’s a side benefit for fans of military-action games. When the TriMount is fully loaded with an Xbox 360 Kinect, a PlayStation Eye (for its Move controller) and Nintendo Wii Sensor Bar, it makes your TV look like a radar-encrusted warship.

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Stats galore

Those motion sensors are helping to change people’s perception of video games, according to a new report from the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the trade group that hosts E3.

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Its surveys found 59 percent of parents think computer and video games provide more physical activity now than they did five years ago. The ESA also found 72 percent of American households play computer or video games, the average age of players is 37, and 29 percent were older than 50.

By gender, 58 percent of gamers are male and 42 percent are female. The ESA notes young boys aren’t the primary audience — boys younger than 17 account for 13 percent of the game-playing population. Women 18 or older account for 37 percent.

The report also said 86 percent of parents are aware of the rating system that labels games with their appropriate age range.

Girls, girls, girls

The other 14 percent of parents better start paying attention to game ratings because of another trend in evidence at last week’s show.

That would be misogyny, which appears to be making a huge comeback in video games. “Leisure Suit Larry” — the pervy game character from 20 years ago — would feel right at home.

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As you approached E3, THQ’s “Saints Row: The Third” was being promoted with (teeny) bikini carwashes. Inside, game developer Nival invited attendees to “get some tail” in an inflatable bouncy house with “booth babes” sporting pinned-on fox tails and wiggling their chests.

Provocative releases include “Catherine,” a racy Japanese anime-style horror game coming to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this summer, and “Duke Nukem Forever,” an update of the 1990s action hit with strippers, booze and guns.

“Inappropriate, insensitive and offensive — you bet,” the Duke Nukem box promises.

Maybe studios were desperate after game sales declined last year. Or they’re just being opportunistic and publishing what sells to a mostly male audience.

Yes, these games are rated “M,” for mature audiences.

Force is with us, forever

Games look better and are getting cool new control systems, but their stories must keep up with the technology.

Practically every major title promoted at the show was a sequel, and the biggest were the third installments of trilogies. Microsoft’s biggies included “Mass Effect 3,” “Battlefield 3,” “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” and “Gears of War 3,” plus “Forza 4” and an early peek at “Halo 4.”

Sony blockbusters included “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception” and “Resistance 3,” while Ubisoft announced “Far Cry 3.”

There were also more “Star Wars” games, including a Kinect version (below) coming out this holiday season and EA’s multiplayer, online “Star Wars: The Old Republic” launching by year’s end.

I love “Star Wars,” and it’s amazing how much creativity the movies inspired. But after dozens of “Star Wars” games over the last three decades, you’ve got to wonder how long it can go on. I guess it’s like the burger and fries of video games — everybody does a version, and people keep eating them up.

I left the show wondering what’s going to inspire the next generation of games and whether we’re just going to keep updating the golden oldies forever.

Maybe we’ll move forward, now that we’ve figured out what to do with all those sensors stacked up by the TV.

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Comments | Topics: e3, E3, Games & entertainment

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