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Whats Next for Video Games?

Whats next?

Its a question that just about any forward thinking person, in almost every profession, in almost any industry has pondered at some point or another. In my field of information technology in particular, "whats next" is a perpetual question. Well... it was the perpetual question until the iPhone was announced =) Personally Im convinced that Steve Jobs is infusing his soul into those little swanky new devices in order to spread himself across the world, eventually creating Skynet (from Terminator). And thats what we call a tangent.

Anyway, in gaming, the answer to the "whats next" question has been relatively boring for a long time. There have been innovations for sure (free roam worlds, multiplayer capabilities, mobile gaming and the wii-mote to name a few), but at their core, games as a whole still follow the same premise as they did when two italian plumbers started rescuing princesses from dragons (Who thought up that plot by the way?). In 1993 I shot nazis in "Wolfenstein 3D". In 2003 I was still shooting nazis in "Return to Castle Wolfenstein". The 2003 nazis have lifelike facial expressions. The 2003 guns blaze off in dolby digital surround sound. The 2003 Castle Wolfenstein is rendered in 47 billion colors, played on a wireless keyboard, rendered out by a graphics card that costs more than then entire 1993 computer...

Images from wikipedia.com and www.sg.hu

... and in the end, Im still shooting nazis. So much has changed, and yet so much has remained the same.

Of course the fact that so much of gaming has remained tied to its roots isnt a bad thing. After all the gaming industry is a multibillion a year machine and still growing. If it aint broke, dont fix it, right?

Still, the question of "whats next" has yet to be answered. As I alluded to earlier, innovations like the wii-mote hint at a possible future of how we control games. Mobile devices influence where we play those games. Internet connectivity changes who we play them with. But what about the games themselves?

CEO of Ubisoft-Montreal, Yannis Mallat has an idea, and he shared some of his thoughts in an interview with Gamasutra. For those who arent interested in clicking, a short snipet for your viewing pleasure:

"...we'll also see products where you can jump in and use the interactivity to control and shape what you're being told as a story, for example. Let's say you are watching a famous battle from within a famous sci-fi franchise, and you don't like the way the battle is turning out for whatever faction it is. If you want to jump in, you jump in and play, and you shape the contents yourself with the interactivity. This is where we envision products going."

The convergence of gaming and film or tv into a single form of entertainment? Sweet mama I must have died and gone to interactive sensory overload heaven! Imagine stories that are no longer told, but experienced - shaped by your actions. The design considerations for something like this are beyond gargantuan, but the possibilities for entertainment or dare I say education, would be limitless. Though it does raise the interesting question of what kind of impact a shift would have on family movie night...

Obviously talk is cheap, and companies like Ubisoft are a long way from turning today's game into the ultimate in interactive media. But big talk makes for big dreams, and what I hope will be a big answer to the "whats next" question.


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Comments (1)

I remember reading a book, hummm.... I think by McDevit. Where the people could take the part of an actor in a film when they are watching it. Or they could just watch. It is a pretty cool idea. It would be even better if it was like what you are saying, so I can jump in and take control of a character and have free range to do what I want. Imagine the number of possibilities. Could be too much for normal computers.

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