Recently Macquarie University held a three-day event known as GAME. Day two was a stimulating day of academics presenting their thoughts on videogames, play, fun, education and games and lastly, the future of gaming. The Future of Games was the last discussion of the day, featuring a panel of experts discussing where they think this giant of a medium, this incredible industry, known as “games” might be heading. The panel included Dr Mark Finn of Swinburne University of Technology, Edward Fong of iGEA and Ubisoft Australia, Dr Michael Hitchens from Macquarie University, Dr Larissa Hjorth from RMIT and lastly Martin Slater from Darkstorm.
So, what exactly will the future of gaming hold for us, the players, the consumers or whatever you want to call us or identify yourself as? Well, apparently, the future is here. To be more blunt and completely pessimistic, the future is the same old stuff for the next fifty years, and apparently has been for since the beginning of gaming. At least that seemed to be the general vibe of the panel.
There were a few things that bothered me about this discussion. Firstly, the aforementioned statement that we are living in the future of gaming, or have been for the past 25 years. This claim completely ignores the effect of graphical realism and technological innovation this has on game mechanics. Sure, in 50 years we may still have the same genres: shooter, platformer or whatever your poison is. They’ve been around for some time. But what about the technological developments that allowed for larger, more engaging game worlds like GTA III or the way the controller and Halo together completely changed the way FPS are designed, let alone how they are played! The ignoring of the spectrum of subjective player experiences, the fundamental essence of videogaming (yeah, that’s right, more important than the money) seemed a little odd. I can understand that the discussion was framed by the topic of commercial games and was therefore leaning more towards the business side of things. But when it comes down to it, we buy the games, we play the games and we have experiences based on the games.
Elements such as the emergence of motion control and mobile devices were mentioned, but swept under the rug with a small “we eventually realised we didn’t have to move all that much” comment. The panel acknowledged that designers needed to adapt to these new technologies, but the argument around this seemed to be that the industry adapted, rather than changed. The games are essentially the same, but there are just different ways of interacting. Again, I feel that some discussion of the way we engage and interact would have been helpful.
The panel went on to discuss narrative in games: arguing that there are better media to tell stories with, indie games: stating that while they may make innovative products once they start to make money they are moving into commercial sector and even educational games: where cynical views about transfer of skills seemed to be across the board. Overall, we could argue that the future of gaming looks bleak. But perhaps this is just a commercial and industry-centric standpoint. We as players benefit from their work, and if we enjoy the games, even if they are the same games, then at least we are going to derive at least some small amount of pleasure from gaming.
While discussion was somewhat limited, there are still some valid points. Will the core mechanics of games ever change? Have they changed at all since gaming began all those decades ago? James Cameron argues that 3D is the future of gaming, but how does that impact game design, if at all? What of augmented reality? It’s widespread adaption to portable gaming devices surely will influence the means in which games are designed, and therefore played. Let’s not allow the discussion end at 5pm on October 28. Where do you think the future of gaming is heading?