Getting into the Game (Literally)

The latest incarnation of Nintendo mega-selling DS handheld gaming system, the DSi, has among its numerous bells and whistles, two built-in cameras. While the DSi has been available for many months now, it is only recently that game developers have started making creative use of those cameras, actually incorporating them into the gameplay. Suddenly, we’ve got a handful of games in which you, the player, can be the star. I’m not talking about a computer-generated avatar that you can customize the eye color and hairstyle on until it vaguely resembles you; I’m talking about your actual face being photographed and pasted onto the body of a video game hero.

This innovation can be looked at in either of two ways. It can be a really cool new way to immerse yourself in a game. Or it can be kind of creepy. It depends, at least partially, on the game. In Picture Perfect Hair Salon, you can try all sorts of different hairdos on yourself and paint your face with bright and bold makeup colors. Silly fun? Or a little too much like those before-and-after computer programs plastic surgeons use to sell facelifts? For now, I’d lean toward the fun side, but I hope no one takes it one step further to create a Nip/Tuck video game.

And then there are the action games. In Foto Face: The Face Stealer Strikes, you can paste your own mug and those of friends and family on not just the game’s hero, but all the villains and monsters as well. This gives you the chance to shoot at and beat up your great aunt in virtual form. Of course, the game’s violence is very unrealistic and its tone tongue-in-cheek, which lessens the shiver factor of such a concept. But again, go one step further and you’ve got Mortal Kombat: Family Reunion Edition. Oh, game developers, please be careful.

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