Gaming, for all the attention and coverage it receives today, is still a nascent phenomenon, not truly a mass market idea like the movies or television. Or rather, it’s not yet a mass market idea like movies or television. But enough clues and indicators exist to suggest a truly astonishing future for a field that has thus far remained mainly the province of kids and geeks.
The word convergence is much used and abused in the context of technology; yet nowhere is it more appropriate than in the case of gaming. In fact, it’s no longer just enough to talk about the future of gaming: it’s the future of “interactive entertainment”, to use the marketing pitch of E3, the industry’s largest Exhibition/Convention. (See http://www.e3expo.com)
E3, or the ‘Electronic Entertainment Expo’, the annual extravaganza held in May, has for the last two years, been much more than just a place for the PC or console gaming community to gather: it is also a meeting ground for representatives from Hollywood, the broadband industry, the music and publishing industries, and the internet industry. E3 is where these diverse worlds meet.
It’s interesting to look at three important elements that will contribute to make gaming a really mass market industry, and how these elements are beginning to impact the scene today: namely,
the Internet, entertainment, and education.
1. The Internet
“The games industry clearly suits the Internet. By its nature, like the web, it is interactive. Besides, the Internet brings something extra to computer games. After 20 years of enforced solitude, gaming is once more becoming the social activity it used to be. As it is changing in this and other ways, it is becoming an increasingly important part of the entertainment business. Hollywood, which has tended to look down on the games business, may find that it has to start deferring to it.”
– The Economist, October 2000
The success of shared gaming worlds like Sony’s Everquest, or EA’s Ultima Online, which was touched upon earlier this week, is just the tip of the iceberg. The potential to build online entertainment communities is limitless. In addition, distribution over the Internet will be increasingly popular even for simpler, single player games, which don’t have a steep learning curve. The current generation of second standard children will probably be going online five hours a week to play new games by themselves or against other opponents by the time they enter their teens.
Immersive entertainment may be the wave of the future: imagine being able to play your favourite movie character, say the hero in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, Maximus Decimus Meridius, and fighting in a Roman arena. But in your version, you can make sure the hero doesn’t die at the end. Or better still, the hero is wearing your face, not Russell Crowe’s.
All of these are possibilities with technologies available today. Unfortunately, despite the example of Disney and Lucasarts Entertainment, which unfailingly
turn every single one of their hit movies into a game franchise From 101 Dalmatians, to Indiana Jones and Star Wars), Hollywood still hasn’t caught on to the fact that adults are a compelling audience for gaming, as well as kids.
For that matter, here in India, we haven’t even begun to address the potential for entertainment-based gaming, in a nation which has the second biggest movie industry in the world!
There have even been cases of games crossing over successfully to film, as in the case of two movies which will be released this summer: the live action “Tomb Raider”, starring Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, from Eidos Interactive’s best-selling franchise for consoles and PCs; and the fully CGI animated “Final Fantasy”, based on a leading Japanese-designed console game. These are certainly not the first game to movie transitions – there have been various others launched to mixed success, from “Mortal Kombat” and “The Mario Brothers” to “Wing Commander”. However, the entertainment industry still hasn’t grasped that gaming is getting more and more mainstream; otherwise, at least two of the major box-office and Oscar successes of the last year would have spin-off games attached to them: namely, ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, and ‘Gladiator’.
Imagine a game version of the movie “Fantastic Voyage” or “Innerspace”: the player can navigate an entire human body from the inside, in a tiny space ship. What an interesting way for students to learn about human biology, not to mention a reason to remember where the Islets of Langerhans are located…
Simulation has long been an accepted training technique in areas requiring high motor and mental skills: for instance, in training fighter pilots. Using newer, cheaper technologies, gaming can be used an educational tool for every age and skill group from kindergarten to architectural school.
Finally, it is appropriate to say that we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. Considering the explosion of delivery mechanisms (consoles, PCs, handhelds, mobile phones) and models (single player, gaming rooms, shared online worlds, customizable games,) that are emerging, gaming may just be the most pervasive part of entertainment industry some day.
Interesting online articles:
Microsoft gets playful:
Hollywood just doesn’t get it:
Wake up and smell the virtual coffee:
Old wine, new bottle: