Monday, January 21, 2008

Weather And Video Games

I'm supposed to be a grownup. After all, I'm over 50 years old, my hair is turning gray and I'm lucky enough to have a wonderful family. Yet, I'm still a kid at heart, which may explain my fascination with video games.

A few years ago a group of us at the TV station purchased the XBOX 360 video console and several games. Within a few hours, I was hooked, spending many more hours sitting in front on my television while madly pushing the "A", "X", "B" and "Y" buttons on the wireless controller.

One of the really neat aspects of the XBOX console is the ability to compete against video game enthusiasts around the world. With your XBOX 360 connected to the Internet, you can play games and have conversations with folks anywhere on the planet. It was a real hoot the first time I played the Tiger Woods golf simulation game with someone from Australia.

So, why am I writing about video games when I should be talking about the weather? Well, it's because video game programmers are including more real-world information (like the weather) in their games. And big companies, like The Weather Channel, are jumping on the video game bandwagon.

Take, for example, NCAA Football 08, a popular college football simulation game. Published by Entertainment Arts Sports (the same folks who make the top selling Madden NFL series). NCAA Football 08 captures the excitement and passion of college football. One of the game's newest features is a tie-in with the Weather Channel.

After choosing teams for the game, gamers can click on The Weather Channel Live Feed to receive the current weather at the stadium. Let's say, for example, that you picked the University of Miami Hurricanes to play the Florida State Seminoles in Tallahassee. After clicking on The Weather Channel Feed, your game will be played under the current weather in the state capitol, whether is sunny, wet, chilly or hot.

One of the most popular video games in history (it has sold more than 18 million games worldwide) is The Sims. Published by Electronic Arts, The Sims lets you create your own little world, an alternate reality of homes, businesses, neighborhoods and cities.

The most recent Sims game, SimCity Societies, even incorporates the effect of global warming. In the game, players build a community by placing roads, buildings and power sources throughout the region. The power sources range from options that emit high levels of carbon dioxide to more environmentally friendly alternatives like solar power and wind farms.

The game actually monitors the carbon released into the atmosphere as well as natural disasters like droughts, heat waves and powerful storms.

The video gamer is presented with a series of real-world issues that make the game seem more life-like than anyone could imagine.

"We have the opportunity to demonstrate the causes and effects of global warming," said Steve Seabolt of Electronic Arts. "We can educate players how seemingly small choices can have a big global impact."

Weather plays a big role in other video games, too. In Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 you need to calculate how gusty winds will affect your shot to the green. And, in MLB 2K7, a simulation of major league baseball published by 2K Sports, rain delays are part of the video game just as in real life.

The goal is make the game more realistic. The addition of real-world information-like The Weather Channel Live Feed or the impact of global warming-it would appear that video game programmers are succeeding.

I'd like to write more about weather and video games but that guy in Australia wants to play golf again. Like I said, I'm supposed to be a grownup.

Posted at 1:19 PM