The rate of technological advances in modern day society is unprecedented. We may not have the flying cars and jetpacks our parents had envisioned when they were our age, but everything from medical technology to everyday electronics are revolutionizing our lives – including the entertainment we enjoy.
Gaming is perhaps the most notable example of such technological entertainment. Electronic gaming was once limited to arcade machines. Today, we can explore virtual realities in our living rooms. Below are five innovations that define gaming right now, along with predictions as to how they might shape the future of gaming.
- Virtual Reality
As mentioned above, we are now at a stage where we can slip into a virtual reality anywhere we please with the help of surprisingly affordable VR consoles. Equipped with a headset and a good pair of headphones, players can enter a 360-degree world of games and videos, allowing for a futuristic experience unlike anything we’ve ever known.
Of course, the concept of virtual reality technology is not new. Attempts have bene made in the past to create such simulations, but the clunky and headache-inducing headsets of the 80s hardly did the idea justice. Virtual reality gaming is currently the most impressive and immersive ever – but it’s going to get better yet.
Game developers are now working on ways to make VR even more immersive. For example, a player should be able to judge the distance of a noise, rather than hear all sounds at the same volume. Currently, it is not always clear in VR games whether a sound is coming from behind you or somewhere far ahead.
Secondly, VR sensors will need to improve to better provide for a seamless experience. When you turn your head to look at something in a virtual reality, there should be no delay or mistake in what you see through the headset. The games themselves are likely to become more sophisticated soon, allowing for greater variation and randomization in the gameplay.
- Artificial Intelligence
“Artificial intelligence”, as the name suggests, describes a form of intelligence exhibited by non-human or inanimate mechanic entities, in such a way which enables the machine to mimic cognitive functions such as understanding speech and problem solving. AI is something programmed to simulate an aspect of human thought and behaviour.
In gaming a slightly different objective is at work, giving rise to the term “game AI” which describes a concept defined as “computational behaviour”, as distinct from “Academic AI” which is all about mimicking the actions of actual humans. In the context of gaming, artificial intelligence is used to create realistic responsive behaviours in non-player characters which are themselves artificial.
In other words, the characters around which the game revolves are bestowed with increasingly sophisticated human traits, making the gaming process as realistic and lifelike as possible. Combined with other developments within the world of gaming such as virtual reality, game AI can help create an almost unsettlingly realistic experience.
eSports is where gaming meets competitive sport in a way which few could have predicted. Gaming was an activity to be enjoyed alone, or perhaps with a friend or sibling, before the internet allowed for an online experience. No longer were people limited in playing only with their real-life friends. Anyone could join forces, or fight against, other players from all over the world.
It was a revolution of sorts – introducing a social and globalizing aspect to gaming. With massive role-playing games like World of Warcraft, or intense combat games like CounterStrike, players can create teams to which they are genuinely loyal and in which they invest serious time or money. When streaming platforms like Twitch allowed the best of those players and teams to broadcast their gameplay to the world, it’s no wonder that superstars started emerging out of the gaming community.
Now, these superstars earn hundreds of thousands of dollars competing in international tournaments that are viewed by millions. eSports has turned gaming into a spectators’ sport, with the audience, fanbase and financial investment to match many more traditional spectators’ sports. Competitive gaming will continue to gain widespread recognition across the world, and may soon become a career every bit as respectable as professional tennis or chess.
On the topic of chess – it’s also worth considering how the surge of eSports is technologizing other traditional spectators sport. The extremely popular ‘Hearthstone’ has proven that there’s an audience for electronic card games. As viewers of physical chess and GO tournaments dwindle, perhaps an online format of the matches will help attract interest once again. Indeed, poker players are already taking advantage of the engagement and support that streaming their online poker game tournaments on Twitch allows them.
Steam is a platform developed by Valve Corporation for the digital distribution of video streaming, multiplayer gaming and a range of other features. Employing an application programming interface known as Steamworks, it also enables developers to integrate any of its many functions into their products.
In essence it acts as a software library which allows its own subscribers to download games and other software. Whilst Valve was originally the sole publisher of the titles it managed, it is now possible for anybody to become a publisher. This has had the effect of enabling smaller independent game studios to make an impact within the gaming industry.
Steam describes itself as “the ultimate entertainment platform”, and it is truly a welcomed facilitator for greater involvement by a wider range of providers.
- Augmented Reality
The gaming industry has been further enhanced by its embracing of augmented reality technology, which involves the superimposing of computer-generated images or video into a real world environment which creates a unique and interesting kind of hybrid presentation. Rather than replacing a real world scenario with a computer-generated one as is the case with virtual reality, AR augments a real-life backdrop with over-laying graphics. Sometimes referred to as “mixed reality”, its “best of both worlds” concept is favoured by companies such as Microsoft, which have invested heavily into it, and are currently working on an AR headset called ‘HoloLens’.
Projects like Pokemon Go, which overlays digital characters onto the player’s own real surroundings, has created a more active approach to gaming by allowing participants to “catch” the Pokemon in their own environment in a way that had hitherto remained unexplored. The massive success of the project bears testimony to the role which AR is destined to play in the future of the gaming industry.
We’ve entered a new age of gaming – an era that has only just begun. It’s difficult not to feel excitement over the ways that games will develop over the coming years. Gaming may once have appealed only to a select few, but it’s fair to predict that it will soon become an irresistible experience for all, no matter age or interests.