I've been at GameHorizon Conference in Newcastle this week. I thought I'd share some of the best presentations and discussions that are coming out of this major gaming event.
Jesse Schell sees games reaching out to real life and real life is reaching into games. He imagines a world, and sees increasing evidence of, the gamespocolypse: where every part of your life is part of playing a game, from brushing your teeth to eating your Cheerios. Some people think this sounds horrible, others like Jesse think it's going to come anyway, so we might as well learn how to do it as well as possible.
1. Social Networking
Networks - let's say, erm, Facebook - propagate material that is helpful, funny, controversial or just amazing. Material that is poor quality, that is viral in a bad way, bombard us every day. Our Facebook immune systems are getting stronger, repelling good content as well as bad, since it's easier to turn off all notifications from games or from my Wall on the basis of a few bad experiences, rather than to filter for the good stuff.
For developers, this means the spammy ways of sharing your games and ideas have to change.
These have been a huge change in the games industry, and their success is unmitigated - just look at an app store to see this. Just because you're not making money out of microtransactions doesn't mean that the principle is wrong or not happening. This whole model scares console manufacturers who are loathe to move from their large-value consoles to the many times 0.99c transactions
Billboards in games, when done badly, are done badly. But making games around products (e.g. M&Ms, Dr Pepper, Sweetarts) might feel a bit better. Ultimately, though...
4. Retail gaming
Retail gaming is bringing huge potential in partnerships between Farmville-maker Zynga and 7-Eleven grocery stores. By choosing which Farmville-themed cup you'll have for your milkshake you are actually playing Farmville.
5. Brands and gaming - Extrinsic rewards
TV Commercial time has, since 1950 to 2010, gone from 13% to 36% of the television schedule. Its encroachment into the games space is inevitable. When we think about how the best brands have used other media, we see how it can work for both brand and individual: Harley Davidson and Tattoos.
6. Wearable gaming - disposable sensors
The Oral B Smiley face that tells you you've brushed enough, the Nike+ shoe that games your running and walking, the sleeptracker app on iPhone that tries to wake you at the best point towards the end of your sleep cycle...
Everything is becoming more and more beautiful, and this trend towards beauty effects every aspect of life and especially digital media. Coming up with functional just doesn't work any more.
Television is evolving. Fast. 3D isn't new (in 1849 the stereoscopic lens came into existence), yet we don't see 3D photography, 3D signage or 3D books everywhere. Are we really going to see this take off in such a ubiquitous fashion? That said, by Christmas 2010 1 in 5 televisions in the UK will be internet-enabled. What does that mean for digital media?
Games are adapting to take on me as the player rather than the avatar the graphic artist came up with. That's personalisation. Not just letting my type my username in before I play.
People want to connect with things that are really real, not artificial as games have been for the last thirty years. Which leads to ideas like...
Is playing Foursquare and taking twenty minutes to enter any building fun? Will it really become an engaging game?
The 21s Century is built on sharing if the first ten years are anything to go by. Little Big Planet players have made over 2m levels. This collaborative process is leading to more
13. Cloud Gaming
Take a look at OnLive - but ask yourself how the servers will be paid for? Cloud computing reduces the cost of storage and servers to 'near zero' if you read Chris Anderson, but it's less 'near zero' if you're paying the bill.
14. Transmedia worlds
A world is not just a movie, or a game. It's a separate thing that can be entered in several ways. One of the most successful is Pokémon (cards, TV, toys, Wii, Nintendo, DVD...). In the music world we are seeing more 360 degree deals: the record label takes control of the Lady Gaga music, downloads, games, books, merchandise...
15. Speech recognition
Chris Swain notes that film only became the core of modern culture when they started to speak. It's when games start to listen that they become the core of our media experiences. When the method of control is above the neck, rather than below it, the medium will be elevated beyond the power of film, of any other medium for that matter. Schell imagines how this might change our morning drive from a routine of listening to the radio, to speaking to our games, taking games (safely) into new arenas and locations, with different groups of people.
16. Nooks and crannies
When so much gaming takes place in so little time that we actually devote to entertainment, the nooks and crannies elsewhere in our packed lives become the new places to play - eating, drinking, working (we've already got that with mobile games) and how about sleep?
17. Portable screens
Portable screens easily fall prey to the Hype Curve. From the peak of inflated expectations, to the trough of disillusionment to the slope of enlightenment and into the plateau of productivity. Take a look at the iPad - where does it stand today? The slope of enlightenment? It must be when people are paying £500 to find out what it does!
18. Quantitative Design
Bringing in more data from more real-time places becomes a fresh way to make games that change every second.
19. THE GAMEPOCALYPSE
This is not maybe all that bad, as the one thing that will not change amongst all these other changes is human psychology. If we can get our heads around that constant, then we can begin to understand the scope of change and potential before us:
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