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The Universal Reset
Wednesday, 9 February 2011
Who says you don't learn anything from games?

First, I'll say that I'll be mentioning GoldenEye Wii, but without talking about it in-depth again.

Right. We've all heard the standard complaint: "What are you doing wasting your mind playing videogames?" Typically, followed by, "Back in my day, we didn't have videogames."

Really, grandpa? You didn't have interactive game software run on microcomputers back in 1935? Who'd have thought of it?

Anyway, apart from the claim by Ronald Reagan back in the '80s that the kids who were playing games were going to grow up to be aircraft pilots and control complex defence systems, a new kind of thing entered the field of view back in the Sixth Generation...
...Motion-capture animation.

Motion-capture, for those who are unaware, is the process of electronically recording a person's movements and using the ensuing data to animate a 3D character in the computer.
This means that, virtually any motion you see made on the screen can be reverse-engineered, if you like, and used in the real world. I shall provide now an example...

Today, I went for a stroll in the park. It may have been 16 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind-chill of -3, but I went anyway. Now, we've had several snowstorms where I live, one right after the other with enough of an interval between them to allow the first lot to start melting. So, when the next lot falls, the snow from the previous storm becomes ice, insulated from any heat and sunlight underneath the current snow. But, the primary issue around here is the top layer of snow hardening so much that it becomes like a sheet of ice.
I shan't give you a science lesson, but suffice it to say, I did encounter several such sheets at the park.
Anyway, I decided on a whim that, as it's too cold for spiders, biting or stinging insects, and poison sumac, that I would cut through a tree-line and take the lower path. Why? Why not?
When I got to the edge of the hill, though, I saw that the snow there had not been walked upon since it fell and was now (hey, guess what?) a sheet of ice. How was I going to get down to that nifty path down there? Isn't the suspence almost too much to take?
I thought back to the opening cutscene of GoldenEye Wii's Dam -- Bond and Trevelyan gain access to the road by sliding down a hill. I figured that a guy in a motion-capture suit was behind the stunt and, if he could do it, why couldn't I?
Famous last words, right? "He did it! Why can't I do it?"
Well, in this case, it worked... I slid down the hill and landed on my feet, just as Bond had done in the game. I stood up easily and continued about my business.

Now, it's not just shooter games that use motion-capture. In fact, EA Sports has the most hours of captured animation than any other company. American football, golf, skateboarding, and such. In many cases, you can learn proper technique by watching the game character.
Of course, your dad, who's reading over your shoulder, grew up in the Third Generation, where everything in games was total fantasy -- he's probably saying, "pfft... games aren't real."
No, the game world is, philosophically speaking, not real. However, the people who made the game are real, including the guy who had to wear the unflattering Lycra/Spandex motion-capture suit whose physical motions were translated into character animations.

Just ask Nobuyuki Hiyama, the bloke whose swordplay motions were captured and applied to Link in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess. Or Duncan Botwood, the GoldenEye 64 production designer who also performed that iconic knees-to-chest death fall.
Or even Ben Cooke, Daniel Craig's stunt double who wore the suit for GoldenEye Wii.
Tony Hawk did all of his own stunts for his games.
In EA's Tiger Woods series, guess who does the golf swings? Tiger Woods.

The point is, if you watch carefully enough, you can learn how game characters do the stunts that they do. Of course, some are completely contrived, like Mario's three-tiered jump or Link's spin attack. There are some that can't be done in real life.
But, if you still don't believe me, find a snowy hill without a lot of sticks, rocks, or generally spiky stuff that could hurt you, sit down, push off, and sort of turn so your non-dominant side does all the sliding. This will help you control your slide and make it easier to stand up when you get to the bottom. When you do get there, you can say, "I learnt that from the new James Bond game!"
Just remember, before you go, wear Levi's, don't use your good shoes, and The Universal Reset waives all responsibility for accidents.

Posted by theniftyperson at 4:27 PM CST

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