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The future of gaming: Interactive Gaming

Monday, 3 March 2008 — by

Whether it’s the heat of battle on some far-flung planet, or the pressure of your next shot on goal, being a part of the action is where the real fun is. So what’s the future of Interactive Gaming?

Moving on from Casual Gaming, we now step up a level or two in our pursuit of video game realism, depth and interaction.

Yes, video games have always been interactive — what with joy sticks, joy pads, steering wheels and various other input devices — but actual human interface was the stuff of the never-breaking dawn of tomorrow’s world, not the world of today.

Until now, that is.

What is Interactive Gaming

Interactive Gaming is where the players actively and physically engage in the activities of a video game. If the theme of the game is tennis, then they play tennis — serves, volleys and chasing the ball to the base line included.

So when the Nintendo Wii burst onto the scene, video games became truly interactive for the first time:

“My nephew told me of a work colleague of his who has a Nintendo Wii, and both he and his wife decided to play a boxing game. After a little less than half an hour, the two of them collapsed in a heap .. back on the settee!”

In a world of childhood obesity and a general lack of fitness among children and teens, getting kids off the couch can only be seen as a good thing, even if they’re still play video games.

Rather than increasing general hand-eye coordination like most other video games, the Wii in encouraging whole-body interaction — to play the game, you must feel a part of the game.

The future of Interactive Gaming

The challenge is two-way; now that Nintendo have paved the way, the other games console manufacturers must meet with the expectations of their customers and deliver more involving techniques and ways to interact with their games.

In turn, the pressure of this new challenge ripples down through the games console manufacturers towards the games developers themselves, who then take those new tools and look to create the innovative games of tomorrow.

Work is already underway in the development of new, novel methods of human-to-computer interaction:

“Well that was over 5 years ago and this is now, thanks to Elliptic Labs and their ‘touchless’ technology: ‘Elliptic Labs is paving the way for use of computers and screens without touching, simply with the finger or hand in the air. Manipulate images, play computer games, control robotics or use touch screens without touching or without holding a hardware control unit.’”

To place the games industry in a business context:

“Jamil Moledina, director of the Game Developers’ Conference said: ‘We had an incredible banner year in 2007 with games like Bioshock, Halo 3 and Uncharted. In the US the industry’s revenues grew 43%, with software sales up a third on the previous year…’”

Cinematic realism in your living room

People clearly want rich, immersive environments, sumptuous in detail and often heavy on plot, dialogue and incidental cut scenes.

The line between video game and a more immersive experience is quickly beginning to blur as the quality of audio & video increases and the power of games consoles increases, while the cost of home entertainment systems goes down.

One game will forever hold a place of high regard in my memory, and that is the original Deus Ex. While the graphics weren’t the best, the plot, the vast scenes and the attention to detail were mesmerizing.

The game itself was enormous. There was also an attempt to make the game non-linear; in that you could choose which ending you preferred. Personally, I don’t think that worked too well, but that was only a minor issue.

Deus Ex signaled a shift in gaming. Other titles also melded cinematic cut scenes and sprawling plot devices, such as the Warcraft series, by Blizzard Entertainment, for example.

As the games become more sophisticated and expansive, video games will also become more sophisticated and much more expensive and take longer to produce:

“But where are we going with games?

Is there an overall direction that all games are following?

Well, maybe there is, and much of this started some years ago when various stars such as Tia Carrere were featured in games like The Daedalus Encounter.

To build upon and increase the realism, to draw upon the sense of cinematic size and to more fully immerse the player in the world they’re within, in time, we’re going to see games publishers working directly with the film producers and the film studios.

The game production will be interwoven with the production of the film.

The reasons being quite simple; save cost, save time and make the most money for the least amount of effort.

So all of those in-game character sequences will be added to the movie filming schedule, or maybe lifted directly from them.

Further into the future, I foresee a time when the distinction between movie and game is so blurred as to be invisible and seamless.

Imagine being in the film. Imagine being the protagonist running against the clock to save the whole of mankind.

Space Invaders this isn’t…”

Taking interaction in hand

For those that remember the movie Minority Report staring Tom Cruise, you’ll remember the scene-stealing moment when Chief John Anderton, played by Cruise first uses the interactive computer to scan through the evidence of a ‘pre-crime':

“Minority Report was only released in 2002. John Underkoffler, the science and technology advisor for that movie, did a bloody good job of showing us what the world would be like. I found an interview with Underkoffler in Salon, from 2002, where he explains that all his work was based on actual research going on at MIT.”

Of course, this isn’t a game, but the principles and the engaging interaction is there, waiting to be applied liberally to the world of video game entertainment, given the right game title.

A future like this would propel the player head-on into a world where the level of realism is frightening, exhilarating and probably indistinguishable from the real world.

This is a world of Immersive Gaming…

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David Bradley → Monday, 3 March 2008 @ 15:25 BDT

I can certainly vouch for the energy required to play Wii boxing, you wouldn’t believe it to be honest, even if you think you’re fit you end up collapsing and the next day you ache…you really ache

(I guess this doesn’t apply if you’re actually a boxer)

db

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