Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Game Developers Conference: Not Your Typical Tech Convention


This week, the big players in the video game industry have gathered in San Francisco for the annual Game Developers Conference. The weeklong event brings together, not the people who buy video games, but the people who make them - the engineers, artists, writers and companies big and small that they work for.

Brian Crecente is there covering it for Polygon, a video game news website. He joined us from San Francisco to talk about it. Good morning.

BRIAN CRECENTE: Good morning.

WERTHEIMER: I want ask you first about the big news out of the conference from Sony, which has announced something called Project Morpheus. It seems to me that the very strange name. What is it?

CRECENTE: Project Morpheus is a virtual reality headset. So this is the thing that would cover your face, sort of like a pair of ski goggles or maybe a scuba mask, and inside the headset is a high definition screen. And this device, if it ever comes out, is designed to plug into a PlayStation 4 and allow people to play games using the console's motion tracking move controllers.

WERTHEIMER: Motion tracking what?


CRECENTE: So the move controllers are basically, they look a little bit like, I'd say, like ice cream cones. So you would hold these things in your hands and if you had this headset on, you would look down and perhaps see, for instance, not just your hands but you would see a sword in your hands and, of course, your hands moving around as well. So it allows you to sort of move around in this virtual world. It is worth noting that this isn't the first or only virtual reality headset out there. Oculus VR is also showing off their latest headset, which is called a Rift. The key difference between these two is that the Rift is designed to plug into a computer, where the Project Morpheus is going to be working for a PlayStation 4.

WERTHEIMER: This conference has long drawn international developers from places like Japan and Korea. What about China? Is there any kind of a presence from Chinese developers?

CRECENTE: Yes. China is a growing force in game development and gaming. And one of the biggest Internet companies in the world, Tencent, is actually here. And earlier this week, they said that they expect an influx of cheap phones in China to bring with it nearly another half billion or so mobile gamers to China alone. And their expectation is that those mobile gamers will, over time, sort of become people who play PC games and console games.

WERTHEIMER: Well now, there must be - I assume - some unusual, creative, quirky things that you are seeing out there. Give us an example of one of the stranger things you've noticed.

CRECENTE: Well, I have to say, so this is not your typical tech convention. It's not like a bunch of loud booths. They have a lot of panels where people learn tricks of the trade, but they also hear about experimental games. One of my favorite talks this year was from Tracy Fullerton, who is the director of USC's Game Innovation Lab. What she talked about was how it seemed there is working on turning Henry David Thoreau's "Walden" into a video game. So the idea is that players will have to survive through eight seasons of living on Walden Pond.


WERTHEIMER: That is very strange.

CRECENTE: It is. What's neat about it is that players can spend all their time sort of on the daily grind trying to complete their chores. That's not really fun, though. So if they tend to wander around in the woods, they'll discovery these sorts of small wonders - things like finding a mother partridge and her chick or maybe seeing the perch leap from the pond. And the coolest thing is that the game is logging all of this and then what it does is it uses that journal to write the player's own version of "Walden," which I think is just fantastic.

WERTHEIMER: Brian, thank you very much.

CRECENTE: Thank you.

WERTHEIMER: Brian Crecente is the news editor of "Polygon." He joined us from San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.