The Future of Video Games Part II
By Jeff Ayers — / Lifestyle
Do you ever wonder how often people are choosing to reach for a game controller instead of a TV remote? Unless you live under a rock, gaming is blowing the eff up. Big tech companies like Apple, Google, Amazon and yours truly are developing gaming products. From virtual reality to artificial intelligence, these technologies are shaping the future of video games.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Both VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) video games have become widely popular in the last few years, and it seems like only a decade or so ago that these types of games were mere science fiction.
Augmented Reality allows the user to play a game within a real-world environment, all while adding in other elements that augment your personal experience. The most famous example of this is Pokemon GO, which can be played on all smartphones by just downloading the app. The game has the player walking around the real world, looking for various Pokemon creatures to find and capture. So while you are looking through your phone at the real street or park in front of you, the game shows you the hidden cartoon characters that you might be able to interact with. This is a highly successful game in that most people already have the hardware (your phone) to play it on, and it also breaks the tradition of playing a game tethered to a console or arcade cabinet.
Virtual Reality has been around in its current form for a few years now, but it wasn't until recently that the hardware needed was affordable enough to purchase. You need a headset and some sort of gaming joysticks or paddles (think of something like the controllers of the Nintendo Wii) to interact in this fully 360-degree virtual world. Thanks to companies like Facebook's Oculus and Playstation VR, these goggles and controllers can be purchased for less than the price of some of the newest gaming consoles or PCs, but the games and virtual worlds that you can experience are still limited in quantity. As more and more developers look into creating entertainment and games in a 360-degree environment, it will only be a matter of time before VR becomes as popular in most homes as the XBox or Playstation.
Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and the Future
Artificial Intelligence, or A.I., might be the most science-fiction thing you've heard of, but it actually has been in video games for decades. The easiest way to explain it is with Pac-Man: The ghosts are characters that the player doesn't control, yet they have a very basic A.I. in place to dictate their actions within gameplay. If Pac-Man eats a power pellet, for example, the ghosts then get scared and run away from him.
A.I. has evolved by leaps and bounds since those early days. Now, non-playable characters (or NPCs) have the ability to perform a wide variety of actions within gameplay. In fact, some games are even being developed by A.I. systems—the most famous of these examples is the game No Man's Sky from 2016. In this game, the player travels throughout the galaxy visiting countless alien worlds that are not programmed into the game ahead of time. The worlds are actually created using artificial intelligence in the game as the player progresses.
Another crazy new technology that you might have heard about is blockchain. This is the tech behind crypto currency like Bitcoin and Dogecoin, which have made waves in the media as of late. But blockchain technology is more than just weird money—it is actually technology that can power brand-new video games and game worlds. One of the newest is Upland —a blockchain game that gives you the opportunity to buy, sell and trade virtual properties based on the real world. Unlike purchasing a house in a game like Grand Theft Auto—where you, in your game, own that property but so do millions of other players in their games—here you truly OWN the house. You can keep it forever, sell it, trade it and even make “money” on it. (Well, blockchain money called Wax, which is similar to Bitcoin.) This kind of thing is groundbreaking, very new and a little confusing, so I urge you to dig deeper into this if you are interested.
Finally, there is the overall thought of the true future of video games and gaming. Sure, there are new technologies coming out to make games faster and better, along with new ways to play and experience games today. But what about the purpose of video games in general? This is actually changing too, and in some surprising ways. Video games were once just seen as ways to escape, to be entertained and to have fun. But even a few decades ago, video games had been utilized in medical and scientific communities, the military and even space exploration to help train and further understand what those professionals were trying to achieve within their fields.
Recently, games have even bridged the gap between entertainment-like movies and TV and playable entertainment. Games like Control and Death Stranding are lauded as great video games to play and are also rivaling the production and storytelling of blockbuster cinema. Another recent game release, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, has been exalted for its storytelling and its main character who dealt with mental health problems in a real and scientific presentation, not the normal—"this character is slightly insane"-type narrative. Video games have a lot to offer, and as the technology gets better, along with the stories they tell and the entertainment they provide, they could truly become the premier entertainment of future generations.
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