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VIDEO GAMES MAKE FANTASY IMAGES LIFELIKE

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A dream-traveler ready for intergalactic adventure climbs into a cockpit and steadies his hands on the controls. The experience begins.

Immense robotic creatures lug their massive frames over a rocky terrain, waging war against the enemy. Every flip of a lever, every tilt of the control stick fires shrieking deadly lasers, decapitating other lumbering land giants and splashing metal body parts over the empty planet.It's the latest in video-game technology - what creator John Weisman calls the world's first computer sport. It also is part of what's new in electronics - at home and elsewhere.

"The desire to be Tom Cruise in `Top Gun' or Luke Skywalker in `Star Wars,' to not have to live that experience vicariously, I think that's a very common fantasy," said Weisman, president of the Chicago-based ESP Corp., which manufactures the Battle-tech Center.

Players sit in four cockpits and must act as a team in a strategic video game simulating ground or air battles. It took Weisman eight years to develop the game, and he plans to open the first Battletech Center along Chicago's downtown lakefront by March. Adventure-seekers would pay $6 for a half-hour session.

"It got us hooked in two minutes," said Brian Bayley, 27, of St. Louis, as he and a colleague stepped out of the cockpit at the Consumer Electronics Show, where the game made its debut in June.

Other items for adults on display at the show included telephones that look like bowling pins, hamburgers or fish - a choice of large-mouth bass, chinook salmon or walleye pike.

For car buffs, Panasonic representatives showed systems that project a map on the windshield to keep drivers' eyes on the road. They also displayed camera-relayed rear and side vision on a screen in the dashboard.

"You can even see videotapes, like one that shows you how to change a tire," said Pat Griffis, a spokesman for Panasonic.

And there were other high-tech toys. A microphone changes voice patterns to any of 16 octaves - making it easy to mimic film characters, including deep-voiced Darth Vader or squeaky Mickey Mouse. The device was developed by Ohio Art Co., creators of Etch A Sketch, and should carry a $48 price tag in retail stores by the holiday season.

Among the new items offered by video game giants Nintendo and Atari are hand-held games that, unlike their predecessors, have more advanced television-like screens. Nintendo's Game Boy, which has a liquid crystal display, will retail at $89.95 this winter. The Atari Advantage, which has a color screen, will sell for $140.