Slave to the Game

Filling you in on the oddball gaming news

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TOKYO — Answers to questions about your lover's fidelity, your boss's mood or your own temperament could be just a push of a button away on the Nintendo DS handheld machine.
Heart Scan, a new video game from Sega, uses the microphone on Nintendo's hit portable to analyze people's voices for a range of feelings — calm, jittery, happy, disappointed, angry.

Have lovers declare their passion, interrogate potential liars and place the DS in a workplace meeting to see if colleagues are as intrigued as they claim to be, Sega spokesman Yasushi Nagumo said.

Numbers, drawings, charts and words pop up on the screen: "The speaker more or less likes you," or "The speaker is agitated."

If a person reads a list of words, "rendezvous, extramarital affair, living together, divorce, marriage," the software shows which rattles nerves much like a lie-detector test, Sega says.

But developers warn against jumping to conclusions about someone's actions, such as infidelity, just because a voice sounds nervous.

The game is being billed as capable of deciphering the psyche of people on a televised news conference, as well as of manga animation characters. It also helps you understand yourself, according to the Tokyo maker of Sonic the Hedgehog games.

Its "sensibility technology" was codeveloped by Advanced Generation Interface Japan Inc. and SGI Japan, to monitor the moods of workers who answer phones and those making complaint calls, said AGI engineer Fumiaki Monma.

Voice samples were collected and analyzed for "parameters," or characteristics, and then labeled as representing emotions, he said. The parameters don't reflect volume, but patterns of tones.

Sega has not decided on overseas plans for the game, which went on sale in Japan Aug. 16.

Nintendo and its partners are introducing new kinds of games to attract novices, including brain drills, facial beauty exercises and cooking recipes.

Nagumo said he has tried Heart Scan at meetings and other situations, but not on his wife.

"I'm too scared to try it," he said.

Two years ago, I found myself wide awake at 3 a.m. on a random Thursday night in August, playing NCAA '06. I'd gotten the game earlier in the day, spent the first few hours of the night making all the necessary changes on the depth charts, and just cracked open the first of what would be several Barq's Root Beers.

Starting off a season with the Tennessee Volunteers, I was excited for the realism and accuracy that made the video game one of the best on the market. Of course, a mere 15 minutes into my opener with UAB, I noticed something very odd scrolling across the fake bottom line ticker. According to the game, unranked TCU, apparently, had beaten No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman.
I was disgusted.

Long a fan of the Electronic Arts franchise, I couldn't take the game seriously from that point on. I'd lost faith. A crazy upset? On the road? During the opening week of the season? Ugh.

That kind of stuff didn't happen in real life. My beloved game had clearly let me down.

Sure enough, three weeks later, the real TCU Horned Frogs beat the real Oklahoma Sooners in Norman.

I haven't doubted the game since.

Throughout last year, we turned to NCAA '07 for predictions. The results were uncanny. Before the season, a simulated run-through of the game revealed Florida as the eventual SEC Champions, Boise State making a run at a BCS bowl berth, and both Florida State and Miami finishing the season outside of the Top 25. Furthermore, Troy Smith was accurately predicted as the Heisman, Arkansas and Wake Forest foreseen with winning records, and Kentucky capable of both an upset over Georgia and an eventual victory in a bowl game.

Move over Kreskin.

By now, you've read all the college football previews, heard all the hype, and seen all the lame Heisman promotional material you'll ever need for the 2007 college football season. You know Colt Brennan's going to throw for 40-plus touchdowns, Darren McFadden's going to do some wild stuff out of the Wildcat formation, and Jimbo Fisher's going to bring offense back to Tallahassee. Boise State returns a slew of starters, West Virginia adds Noel Devine to its already loaded backfield, and Tulsa's everyone's sexy mid-major sleeper pick.

It all starts this week, and you've never been more prepared.

But before we get started, let's see what the old video game console had to say.

With every player's name loaded and every team's roster updated on to the game, we've simulated the entire 2007 college football season. After a half hour of scores zipping, names flashing, and fight song music blaring in the background, we've got polls, awards, a national champion — the whole deal. Take some time and read through.

NCAA '08 end of regular season rankings
: 1. LSU
2. Nebraska
3. West Virginia
4. Arkansas
5. Virginia Tech
6. Louisville
7. Boise State
8. Penn State
9. Michigan
10. USC
11. Ohio State
12. Florida State
13. Wisconsin
14. Texas A&M
15. UCLA
16. Florida
17. Rutgers
18. Auburn
19. Oklahoma
20. Miami
21. Texas
22. Tennessee
23. Notre Dame
24. Washington
25. Purdue

BCS matchups
Rose Bowl: Penn State (Big Ten Champions) vs. USC (Pac-10 Champions)
Final score: USC wins 51-13

Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech (ACC Champions) vs. West Virginia (Big East Champions)
Final score: West Virginia wins 31-28

Sugar Bowl: Louisville (At-large) vs. Michigan (At-large)
Final score: Louisville wins 27-20

Fiesta Bowl: Arkansas (At-large) vs. Boise State (At-large)
Final score: Arkansas wins 35-21

National championship: Nebraska (BCS No. 2) at LSU (BCS No. 1)
Final score: LSU wins 34-17
MVP: Matt Flynn, QB, LSU — 23-30, 311 yards, 3 TDs

National champions: LSU Tigers

Heisman finalists
Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville
John David Booty, QB, USC
Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State
Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
Sam Keller, QB, Nebraska

Winner: McFadden

Other award winners
Maxwell (best player): Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
Bednarik (best defensive player): Dan Connor, LB, Penn State
Davey O'Brien (best quarterback): Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville
Walker (best running back): Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
Best WR: Mario Urrutia, WR, Louisville
Best TE: Dustin Keller, TE, Purdue
Best OL: Sam Baker, OT, USC
Rimington (best center): Jeremy Harrell, C, Arkansas
Lombardi (dest defensive lineman): Andrae Wright, DE, West Virginia
Best LB: Vince Hall, LB, Virginia Tech
Thorpe (best defensive back): Jonathan Hefney, CB, Tennessee
Groza (best kicker): Richard Jackson, K, Clemson
Best Punter: Zoltan Mesko, P, Michigan
Best kick/punt returner: Eddie Royal, WR, Virginia Tech
Best coach: Bill Callahan, Nebraska

First-team All-Americans:
QB: Brian Brohm, Louisville
RB: Chris Wells, Ohio State
RB: Darren McFadden, Arkansas
WR: Mario Urrutia, Louisville
WR: Early Doucet, LSU
TE: Sam Wheeler, Virginia Tech
G: Sergio Render, Virginia Tech
C: Ryan Schuman, Virginia Tech
G: Greg Isdaner, West Virginia
T: Sam Baker, USC
T: Jake Long, Michigan
DE: Andrae Wright, West Virginia
DE: Bruce Davis, UCLA
DT: Frank Okam, Texas
DT: Glen Dorsey, LSU
LB: Steve Octavien, Nebraska
LB: Dan Connor, Penn State
LB: Vince Hall, Virginia Tech
CB: Zack Bowman, Nebraska
CB: Jonathan Hefney, Tennessee
FS: Kyle Jackson, Florida
SS: Reggie Smith, Oklahoma
K: Richard Jackson, Clemson
P: Zoltan Mesko, Michigan

Second-team All-Americans:
QB: Colt Brennan, Hawaii
RB: Branden Ore, Virginia Tech
RB: Steve Slaton, West Virginia
WR: Jason Rivers, Hawaii
WR: DeSean Jackson, California
TE: Dustin Keller, Purdue
T: Jose Valdez, Arkansas
C: Mike Dent, West Virginia
G: Ramon Foster, Tennessee
G: Jordan Picou, Nebraska
T: King Dunlap, Auburn
DE: Chris Long, Virginia
DE: Chris Harrington, Texas A&M
DT: Terrance Knighton, Temple
DT: Derrell Hand, Notre Dame
LB: Ali Highsmith, LSU
LB: Rey Maualuga, USC
LB: Xavier Abidi, Virginia Tech
CB: Jonathan Zenon, LSU
CB: Chevis Jackson, LSU
FS: Otis Wiley, Michigan State
SS: Myron Rolle, Florida State
K: Kevin Kelly, Penn State
P: Patrick Fisher, LSU

All-freshman team:
QB: Adam Weber, Minnesota
RB: Noel Devine, West Virginia
RB: DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
WR: Terrance Tolliver, LSU
WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
TE: Bailey Woods, Auburn
G: James Pouncey, Florida
C: Beau Warren, Virginia Tech
G: Kevin Young, South Carolina
T: Aaron Brown, Virginia Tech
T: Jarvis Jones, LSU
DE: Lawrence Marsh, Florida
DE: Jason Adjepong, Virginia Tech
DT: Wayne Thomas, Rutgers
DT: Dexter Larrimore, Ohio State
LB: Jared Detrick, Virginia
LB: Manny Abreu, Rutgers
LB: Jeremiha Hunter, Iowa
CB: Eric Berry, Tennessee
CB: Jai Eugene, LSU
FS: Deunta Williams, North Carolina
SS: Jordan Bernstine, Iowa
K: Richard Jackson, Clemson
P: Chas Henry, Florida

Get all that?

USC losing to Nebraska in Lincoln on Sept. 15, Penn State topping Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin in the Big 10, and both Oklahoma and Texas finishing out of the top 15. Bill Callahan leading an undefeated Nebraska squad to the BCS Championship Game, UCLA and Washington edging out Oregon and Cal for the 2 and 3 spots in the Pac-10, and Boise State making a return to the Fiesta Bowl. Sam Keller invited to New York for the Heisman presentation? A team that had four players from last year's Sugar Bowl champion squad get selected in the first round of April's NFL Draft winning it less than twelve months later?

It sounds absurd, I know.

And hey, believe what you want.

But I'd keep this article bookmarked somewhere on your desktop. Save it for early December.

This video game is eerily good at predicting things.

The TCU-Oklahoma upset in 2005, Boise State's miracle season last year, Wake Forest and Arkansas turning it around in '06 ...

All things considered, Nebraska in the BCS Championship doesn't seem so crazy after all.