The Coming Golden Age of Videogames

A fascinatingly detailed article in the NYTimes on the emerging next era in entertainment. A quote by Bruno Bonnell, the French CEO of Atari:

[In the age of the caveman], they had two ways of entertainment. One was the chief of the tribe telling about the hunting of the day — how big the tiger’s teeth were, how brave this guy was when he went to hit the mammoth with the stick or whatever. And that was to impress the crowd. The fun, the thrills, were coming from this impression that you got from outside. Then they moved into painting on the cave walls, then writing stories, then the stories started moving, like cinema, and the cinema went to television. Still the same system. The media of impression.’

The second way of entertainment they had was to take two sticks, beat them together and dance around the fire. And here the thrill was not about being impressed but about expressing yourself. That moves into the invention of musical instruments, getting different emotions from different styles of music, growing the music experience into opera or whatever. And that really leads into the video game. Playing with a joystick is basically the same move as playing a piano; the thrill is not what you get from outside, but what you express from inside. Whether it’s a piano or a chessboard or a joypad, that’s your technology, and you express yourself through it.

Very often, people talk about the video-game business from a pure financial point of view. Numbers, percentages, market share, all those subjects — we don’t care. And the mass market, they don’t care either. What they want is to see if, at the end of the day, this form of entertainment is going to be a part of their life or not. The answer is yes. Big time.

The golden age of movies is gone. That’s it. It’s a fact. What they do today to survive is they multiply the special effects to catch up with what the kids want, because they’ve seen it in the incredible universes of these video games. It used to be, ‘Well, let’s make a movie and then make a video game version as a licensed product.’ The next step to this will be the collaboration between the stories, between the complexity of their stories and the personal expression of the video game. This product doesn’t exist yet, but it will. Think about this kind of game, where you’ll be in a kind of Star Wars environment, you’ll have X thousand people playing together at the same time; you could just spend your day watching the screen and waiting for the stories to happen, or else you can decide to enter the game and take your own little path, all in real time.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.