[Quest at GDC] Predicting gaming’s future from trends at GDCBy: Mandifesto posted at Mar 04, 2011 5:01 pm
Today was the last day of the Game Developer’s Conference, and as my neck unkinks from lugging my computer up and down the streets of San Francisco, I have been thinking back over what I have heard at the various panels and discussions. I’ve seen dozens of games, have talked to numerous developers, whose games I will be sharing with you over the course of next week. But today I want to share with you my personal take on what this year’s GDC means for the rest of this year and game development on into the future. I notice two major trends in game design coming out of this year’s GDC, and these have me very excited: Truly cross platform social gaming, and serious games that will improve the real world.
Cross Platform Social Gaming
This trend was all over the Expo Show floor this year at GDC. The idea is that in the coming months and years it won’t matter what hardware you play your favorite game on. More and more game developers are creating games, particularly MMOs, that you can play on your PC, pause, pick up again on your mobile phone, pause, and continue your progress on your PS3 or 360, pause and log back in through Facebook. This sort of platform flexibility is going to change not only the MMO genre, but the game industry in general. Think of how much you could accomplish if you could play Aion all day every day no matter where you were or what you were doing?
In some cases upcoming games will feature modified versions of this. Elsword, for instance, is planning a lite version of the game that will be playable on Facebook so that people can try the game without having to download the client. Other games like Runes of Magic are going completely browser-based and A Mystical Land so that you won’t have to download the massive multi-gig client if you don’t want to. A few games are taking this trend completely to heart. The best of them at the show appears to be Dungeon Defenders, a hack and slash/tower defense MMO that you can play co-op with up to four people no matter what hardware they are using. I cannot tell you how exciting it is to know that I will be able to play the game with my husband on his iPhone, while my brother-in-law plays on his 360 and I on my PC. Mix-and-match hardware is going to shake this industry to its core, mark my words.
Anyone as passionate about gaming as I am will know the name Jane McGonigal. McGonigal is the Creative Director at a game studio called Social Chocolate, and is also known for being the spokeswoman for the idea that gaming is going to change our world for the better. Imagine if everyone on your block was a scientific genius or a math wiz, and had access to powerful software that could combine all their talents and effort and focus it toward solving major social problems like poverty or mapping the human genome. This year at GDC an entire summit or series of talks was devoted to game design that will do just that.
Gaming skill, you see, when mastered at a high enough level, can be applied toward solving other difficult things. The trouble is, not enough people have skills that can be used to help out in science or mathematics or direct social change. What we need is a massive global movement toward creating games that will jumpstart the populace from gaming novices to experts. Once that happens then they can use those leet skills toward big think projects and start making a difference. Currently this trend is just getting a definition, so I think it’s going to take about a decade for companies to really see the real world application of serious games. Right now we have to reteach the populace that edutainment is not synonymous with serious gaming, and that these sorts of skills are really important if we want to make the future a better place. I for one am willing to play science games or math games if it will teach me the skills I need to help cure cancer.
Looking at the trends I saw at this year's GDC, I am more than a little excited to see what the next few years hold for the gaming industry. I expect to see much more in the way of social gaming that transcends hardware limitations, and serious games that transcend our virtual worlds and help to better the real one. And more than ever I am proud to be a gamer.
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