Issue 28 11.20.13

Issue 28
The Future of Gaming

The following short essays are ruminations on the future of gaming by various members of the past and present CADRE community. They were initially written for the November 2011 issue of Turkish Airlines Skylife Magazine.

The Future of Gaming

by Jenene Castle

Emergent gaming trends increasingly connect virtual in-game space with “ordinary” or geophysical life space. Inclusion of real world interaction within game play is eminent. For example, the online virtual environment of Second Life has a working relationship that combines the in-world monetary system (the Linden) and real world currency. Additionally, Blizzard—the game development company behind World of Warcraft (WoW)—is currently investigating ways to synchronize WoW’s auction house with real world currency.

Game worlds seem to be more inclined to partner with components in life space as opposed to the reverse. That being said, the unfortunate reality of gamification has started to take shape with both realms. Gamification, in this sense, is the use of trivial or monotonous game-emulated dynamics developed to reward individuals for participating in the consumption of goods and services.

There is, however, an alternative to this diluted perspective. Game designer and professor Ian Bogost notes that “serious games have given its advocates a way to frame the uses of games in governmental and industrial contexts, by making the claim that games can tackle consequential topics and provide profound results.” These can range from simple games, those employed to engage students in enjoyable learning processes, to more complex systems which may aim to critique various social constructs. For instance, the artist collective Third Faction works within existing game environments to educate and raise awareness by drawing parallels to real world experiences.

Recently, at ISEA 2011 in Istanbul, Third Faction presented “DPS” (Demand Player Sovereignty): a project promoting social activism and civil disobedience. In-game marches were held to protest the top-down governmental structure and the pornification of female avatars; this is one way artists have begun merging real world politics with the game space in a non-trivial way.

The future of gaming is morphing. However, until the majority of people begin to consider games as an alternate form of reality, the pendulum will remain unmoved. Avant-garde artists and educators are acting as a catalyst for this change. The result will be a merging of both the virtual and the geophysical world. Instead of integrating games into reality, as with gamification, reality will be integrated into games.

The Future of Gaming

by John Bruneau

There is a lot of buzz right now over gamification, which is the process of infusing the monotony of  reality with gaming elements. We are already witnessing the incorporation of game mechanics and design techniques into all aspects of daily life. Businesses are jumping on the gamification bandwagon to push profits up, engage the consumer, and maintain popularity. There is a strong push in academia to gamify education and research. On the one hand, we have Serious Games and Games for Change, while on the other hand, we have foursquare America’s Army and Badgeville all vying for our attention and trying to up the ante. Finally! We have the means to make learning fun, make buying fun, make taking surveys and giving away your personal information… fun. But all this is happening right now: Gamification is the present of gaming. So what about the future?

DevHub, a website website, increased the number of users who completed their online tasks from 10% to 80% after adding Gamification elements.

The future is full of intensity, excitement, and stress. Every aspect of life is so deeply infused with game mechanics that separating game and life is an impossibility. The constant need to grind, to level, to rack up points and experience points leads to unparalleled levels of anxiety. The necessity to continually keep up with the Joneses’ achievements takes its toll on the human psyche. We need an exit. Desperately, people begin searching for a way to escape into a world of peace and mundane simplicity; a place where they wont be weighted, measured or scored, a place where quest-lines all come to an end. Banal is the new fantasy and games, as always, are there to rescue us from our reality.

“Games are the new normal” – Al Gore

When life is a game, escapism becomes life – a simpler life, an ideal life. The kind of fantasy our parents reminisce about. We already see it happening in art, film, and television. Indeed, this future is not so distant. Several independent game titles currently indulge this sentiment. flOw, Flower, Passage, Desert Bus, MFAPrep Course, Dinner Date, Metro Rules of Conduct are all signs of things to come. As this new genre of games begins to rise in popularity, marketers and academics will begin looking for ways to introduce life-like elements into life. For better or worse, future schools, businesses and altruistic nonprofits will all try to lure us away from the leveling rat race with “Lifeification”. Who could resist a website offering an embedded chance to unwind with a dying of old age simulator? The future of gaming is not the Gamification, but rather the Lifeification, of life.

“The lifeification of games is where we want to go in the game industry” – Chris Hecker

The Future of Gaming

By Marek Kapolka


3rd faction. San Jose State University.

If, as Duhamel said, video replaced our thoughts with moving images, then games will replace our thoughts with systems (dedicated gamers can attest to this—ask them about their fever dreams). Whereas non-interactive media provide representations, games provide simulations. As such, the cognitive processes used to understand a game are completely different from those used to understand passive media. Even on a basic level, the player is required to learn a complex network of causes and effects in order to successfully navigate any game. This mode of thinking has the potential to create a framework for scientific curiosity. In science, as in game analysis, the observer asks a series of “why” questions down through layers of complexity in order to understand the systems that drive their subject. A game-savvy population would have an immense effect on culture. With the systemic fluency provided by playing games and a finely developed sense of agency (a requisite faculty of the gaming aesthete) players will not only have a lucid vision of the social order they want to live in, but will be able to design the rules of such a society.

The Future of Gaming

by Thomas Asmuth

In Homo Ludens, the act of play was quoted as being “older than culture” itself by Dutch historian and theorist Johan Huizinga. In his argument, play transcends milestones by which we would frame “civilization” and “culture.” The impetus for play and gaming is an innate drive in mankind and other mammals; when framed in Huizinga’s theory, the topic “Future of Games” sounds hyperbolic. The desire to play and game is instinctual stuff that we carry with us everyday: it resides deep within our psyche.

Contemporary popularization and interest in gaming (formally Ludology) is firmly rooted in the massive rise of personal computing and networking industries. The game industry regularly outsells Hollywood with yearly sales in hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars. These cyclopean revenues—as well as the critical mass of a world-wide ludo-centric culture—have inspired a creative generation comprised of software engineers, artists, and sociologists. These game culturalists are all focused on the nature of gaming and the possibilities it can create.

This emergent global gaming culture transcends geographic, social, and national boundaries: this is where the Future of Games attains traction. There is a very real sense of community within and around gaming systems. The citizens of the game inspire others and engage in research, criticism, debate, reflection, and derive pleasure from these things. Despite humanity’s best attempts to segregate and become tribalistic around other kinds of local culture, the instinctual drive for gaming has the potential to subvert these identity issues. It may be one of the best ways humanity can collaborate and collectively bring forth models for discourse, change, and cultural improvement. The Future of Games is in the massively interconnected society which thrives within games and the evolving culture surrounding them.