I've recently been thinking about where video games could be going in the future. I'm hoping to work in the game industry one day after I've finished university study and I've been wondering about it a lot. What do I want to see happen in the future? Well I may not have too many answers right now, but I have come up with a few ideas that I think may come into 'play' in the not too distant future.
Firstly forget Virtual Reality, as we know it. They've tried VR goggles and they made a lot of people sick in doing so. It's probably never going to work very well in its current form. They're still around and you can still buy them but they really don't seem to be taking off. It will probably take a lot to get people totally immersed and involved in a new form of game play. It's threatening to lose touch with the outside world and the people around you aren't going to appreciate it much either. The Sci-fi neural implants are also both a long way off and not likely to be accepted by a majority of the general populace without some severe marketing and luck. I for one am not planning on going through brain surgery just to have a computer attached to my head. In fact I never want anyone to able to plug into my brain.
A technology that was brought to my attention by a zealous presenter at the local 'Science and Technology Centre' (a sort of science museum aimed at making science fun for children and juvenile adults such as yours truly) is that of 'Augmented Reality'. Augmented Reality is essentially the overlaying of virtual elements onto the real world, such as a pair of transparent glasses that can display certain elements over the top of what is actually there. I agree with the presenter in that this could indeed have some awesome potential. Forget all the socially beneficial applications such as workmen being able to view underground pipes before digging, think about it from a games point of view. This technology could provide gamers with the ability to run around looking like complete idiots shooting at things that aren't actually there and that no one else can see, kind of like in the film 'They Live!' The upside to this is that it would be a lot of fun. A group of people from the University of South Australia created the 'ARQuake' project, http://wearables.unisa.edu.au/projects/ARQuake/www/, merging the classic shooter Quake with this Augmented Reality technology. Again, this technology may not ever become overly popular, but it would be entertaining to play with.
Technology has driven the games industry for a long time with new games always trying to keep one step ahead of the competition. It started way back at the dawn of technology and it continues to this day. 2D graphics gave way to 3D and 3D is becoming ever better. Graphics are starting to lose the ability to impress like they once did. The step between Quake 2 and 3 was amazing, but DOOM 3 while being visually very impressive isn't leaps and bounds ahead of its competitors in the same way new games used to be. 2D graphics encountered a similar problem; there comes a point where you just can't do much more with graphics technology. It is this that turns graphics from striving for technological achievement to becoming art. It is my hope that we will start turning away from tech demos and return to game play and making great entertainment. Games such as Zelda: The Wind Waker or The Sims that strive to show greater depth of character through simplifying the game enough to portray emotions will hopefully become more common (and more fun? but that's just one person's view?). Technology plays a certain part in the conveying of emotions and story but it's quite hard to focus on everything at once. When technology is easier and less essential to game sales we'll hopefully see an increase in games that cast a lasting impression.
Somewhat unfortunately the rise of the 'Casual Gamer' will probably lead to more simplistic games being released. While personally I would love to see depth of story and characters, there are a significant number of players out there who want to pick up a game for twenty minutes or so, have a bit of fun, and then put it down until another time. These gamers are generally less interested in the latest greatest technology and more interested in a 'fast food' kind of entertainment that satisfies the moment, despite the lack of quality or the lasting effects. Hopefully the two game types can co-exist peacefully although recently it has been seen that some developers are cutting down on some of the planned depth of a title in order to accommodate the more casual gamer.
As technology pushes forwards boundaries are slowly being broken down between systems. We saw the Bleemcast a few years back enabling the running of Playstation games on the Dreamcast, and the PC is able to run almost anything given the right emulation software. Consoles are able to emulate other consoles and new consoles are being announced that promise the ability to play PC games. The Xbox 2 is reported to have a model in planning that comes in a PC case and with the ability to run both PC software and Xbox software. Macs can emulate Windows software and vice-versa. We'll probably start seeing less of a distinction between consoles and PCs as the price of technology continues to drop and consoles continue to become more and more powerful and able to compete with the more expensive computers. Ideally we'll see a single platform come into prominence so that everything can be run without purchasing a copious number of different machines, although that does have a downside in that it can establish a monopoly for one particular company.
The technology price drop and increase in power has also lead to more powerful hand-held machines than before. Real games, not just simple toys are now available for the portable market. The advent of PDAs and mobile phones with the ability to play games raises awareness of portable gaming and new competitors are starting to get in on the field that was once primarily dominated by Nintendo's GameBoy. There is a new product, the gp32, that can run many different emulators and hence, many different system's games (including some PC games).
I can't say for sure what's going to happen but these are just a few ideas that I've had recently. Hopefully the games industry will continue to strive towards new heights with new and interesting game play, stories, characters and ideas. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in the next few years.