Over the past 40 years, we’ve seen video games evolve from primitive, blocky PONG style affairs with simple controls to numerous coin ops, consoles, shooters, handhelds, MMORPGs, dance-offs, and virtual reality experiences. Once we used boxes of light to smack around other boxes of light; now we’ve become hammer-wielding hobgoblin mercenaries, winged demon sorcerers, sourpuss demigods, and purple-skinned spaceship pilots with face tattoos. We emerged from a primordial era of paddles, trackballs, joysticks, and one-button interfaces to undergo Dance Dance Revolutions and equip our living rooms with Kinect systems where “[we] are the controller.”
You don’t even have to be a joystick-twirling old-timer to appreciate this phenomenon. If you’ve been playing video games for just a couple of years, you’ve probably noticed some pretty dramatic changes in the way they’re played. The jump between the Wii’s motion-sensing remote controller to the you-detecting Kinect is fairly monumental, which makes us wonder: What could possibly be next? A neural interface where you only need to think about the actions you’d like for your onscreen representation to take? Holodecks à la Star Trek the Next Generation? Better Than Life headbands as seen in Red Dwarf?
You can already play some pretty complex games on mobile phones and tablet computers (like the iPad) while you’re on your daily train ride to the office or on long vacations with the family. It wasn’t that long ago that you needed some pretty hardcore hardware to keep up with any serious gaming beyond Tetris (which is an oldie that never really gets old), but now there’s a real effort to make games like World of Warcraft available on iOS devices. That’s a pretty huge leap forward from what was thought possible even just a couple of years ago.
“That’s one small step for Pac-Man; one giant leap for gamerkind.”
As with any other technology, you can expect things to get more compact, faster, and prettier (also, if you’re lucky, cheaper) as time goes on. Maybe video games will someday become so real that kicking a soccer ball around a virtual world will be indistinguishable from the real thing. This makes me wonder: If such a full circle is ever realized, will we opt to buy the console that could make such a thing possible for that generation of kids, or will we just be better off getting ‘em a soccer ball? Heck, maybe they won’t even make real sports equipment by then and the console simulation will be the cheaper option…
CC licensed Flickr photo shared by farnea