If we think of how the video game has evolved in the last 30 years it seems extraordinary, but what about the next 30 years?  What will it look like in the future and how do we want it to develop?  In 1877 the first motion pictures ever were made; they explored human and animal locomotion and were more utilised as a study rather than for entertainment.  Fast forward 28 years to 1915 and Alice in Wonderland was released to theatre audiences.  A silent film, it was probably accompanied by a pianist and the film was interspersed with plain black slides with large text to help with the narrative.  The film must have seemed amazing for the time, it depicted fictitious characters, fantasy and carefully crafted film sets – familiar?

Looking at this film now, we are haunted by several characteristics, the somewhat awkward acting, the creepy costumes, the jerky editing.  This like so many films by this time was a work of fiction and moved away from the functional use of the motion picture and into the commercial, consumer escapism.  The top grossing films that year were nearly all dramas and comedy.

The consumers appetite for light entertainment was apparently now big business and who were the film industry to turn away from this?  The film industry today is of a scale unfathomable to a person of that period.  Film makers are all over the world creating motion pictures that entertain, educate and hook audiences.  Now we have action films, thriller, horror, rom-com, sci-fi, biographies, factual, political and to further expand on these genres they can all be spread into manga, 3D rendered, 2D cell animation, stop motion and video game spin-offs, we could go on and on (but perhaps in another post).

“I shudder at the idea that in the future we will be playing Call of Duty 40…”

So what has this got to do with video games?  Well lets see – we’ve gone through the period of joysticks (I think thats over now) we have colour, handheld, touch, 3D, realistic lighting, AR and now we have VR…how will the games market look in another 30 years time?  Whilst I love games, I shudder at the idea that in the future we will be playing Call of Duty 40, Candy Crush (for SAGA readers anyone?) or a thousandth variant on the ‘Cartoony tower defence’ league.  Will glasses or some other AR (Augmented Reality) tech be attached to our temple, or implanted into our eyes?  Will we all be standing in holodeck style bubbles in our homes experiencing some fantasy war zone?  Will robotics mesh with our gaming habits?  But more over I ponder as to how gaming will evolve from the chosen past time to the unavoidable part of life, meshing in with the everyday objectives.

I don’t just mean ‘Gamification’, I mean at what point will people really look at what they’re consuming and start selecting experiences which are as rewarding as games but genuinely enrich their real lives?  And when will developers begin creating these?  Could this type of experience drive our worlds progress?  When I mention this type of game form to people I am met with either curiosity or sneers and the proposal is immediately categorised as ‘edutainment’ and almost not in the same league as imaginary fictional brands.

“I believe we have been practicing, we have made up fantasy worlds and crafted intriguing characters to learn what it is that makes us curious…”

How many variants on a match3 game does the world need to play before they stop and it hits them…I’ve done this before, like scratching an itch which is now a stinging rash – is it possible that society will one day look at such games and label them ‘dangerous’, ‘addictive’ the work of ‘dealers’.  Gaming is powerful, it draws your mind in and its purpose is to retain you right there, did you press something? here’s some sizzle, did you complete a mediocre challenge – heres a reward, encourage and engage the user, don’t let them put you out of their mind and when the inevitable moment comes, re-engage them – ‘look your friends are playing too’, ‘don’t leave’!

The dance will go on, it will repeat and repeat.  I believe there is more to gaming than simply gaming, I believe we have been practicing, we have made up fantasy worlds and crafted intriguing characters to learn what it is that makes us curious, draw in our audiences but as consumers learn about these techniques, just as with advertising our power will wain, one day, perhaps soon, people will want more for their time, more for their attention.

If I said to you that I had the power to draw you into an imaginary place for 2 hours a day, that you would be thinking about it even when you’re not there, that your friends would all be thinking about it too.  If I could just turn that power on whenever I liked, would you want me to take you somewhere that improved your (real) life, or somewhere that just took away your time in life?

Wonderland is an accurate description for the video game experience, it is a dream like existence – un-checked we could all find ourselves missing the big point.

It’s not all bad news however.  Games are a fantastic medium to be in, and something that has arisen in games in recent years is ‘user experience’ – the importance of user experience is only truly appreciated when the user is given the freedom to take it or leave it and in free to play nothing has shaken up the developer more than the harsh judgement of the public.  Now we’re thinking about users/customers experiences more than ever.

However there is something else coming into the language of game developers, as VR is developed, we are quickly becoming aware of the need for a player to feel ‘present’ in their surroundings, a feeling that is more intense when in a VR space.  I have high hopes for this word in our lives over the coming years, being present in our surroundings is one of the most important goals of every second of our lives, what is also interesting is that if you are completely present in your real self, you begin to question all distractions and the value they provide…a paradox indeed.

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