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New Video Games Blur Lines Between Player, Character

To the casual eye, Namco Bandai's newest action game, "Afro Samurai" looks a lot like the animated series of the same name that recently aired on Spike TV.

It's not just because the game's animation is adapted from Takashi Okazaki's popular manga about a vengeful samurai or that Samuel L. Jackson does the voices for both the show and the game. It's because there aren't the usual visual indicators to suggest that it's a video game.

Many videogames have something called a "heads-up display" or HUD. It's the information, often on the periphery of the screen, that gives players information about what's happening without requiring them to move their eyes away from the action. The terminology originally had military connotations, but soon worked its way into games.

In the first-person shooter series "Halo," it's the number of bullets or the player's location on the map. In the online fantasy game "World of Warcraft," it's, well, everything, from ongoing conversations to the character's level and available spells.

But for the production team of "Afro Samurai," all of that information is a distraction.

"A HUD reminds you that there's a separation between you and the story," says David Robinson, senior producer for the game. "Anytime you put a health bar on the screen, it ruins things."

• Click here to read the rest of this story in the Wall Street Journal.

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