In the Future, Everyone Will Play Video Games

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[intro]One needs only to look at how far videos games have come in a short period of time to appreciate how bright their future looks.[/intro]

Released this past summer and recently made available on Netflix, Video Games: The Movie is a TV-style documentary that does a decent job of connecting the history of video games with the industry’s current directions, including indie games, esports, technological innovations in computing, the momentum of virtual reality like Oculus Rift, and the expanding gaming culture. It also showcases key personalities that have made video games what they are today, such as Pong-creator Al Alcorn and Brian Fargo of Wasteland fame, and modern thinkers about the future of video games, like Ernest Cline author of Ready Player One.

While a video game about the history of video games would be ideal, we can enjoy a good film for now:

Beyond nostalgic moments for older gamers, the documentary offers an amazing view at how gaming has evolved both visually and in its degree of engagement.

Unfortunately, it invests far more into classic controversies, like its correlation with violence, along with the business side of games, such as the deep dive it takes on the notorious Atari landfill debacle, rather than more timely topics: gender and generational issues, the rise of mobile gaming, educational and serious games, et cetera. Still it’s challenging to make a single film about such a rich and pervasive subject.

On watching this film, one thing is for sure: video games are some of the richest “simulations” humans can experience. Unlike books and movies which are passively consumed, video games rely on direct involvement from players both through cognitive choices and physical actions. So it isn’t surprising that many people can recall their favorite games from their childhood in great sensory detail, regaling exploits as epic achievements on par with just about any academic, athletic, or career accomplishment one can name.

If you’re itching for those glory days, you are about to say goodbye to your afternoon.

To relive gaming’s history and preserve it for future players, the Internet Archive recently released the Internet Arcade, a collection of some of the most classic coin-operated arcade games from the 1970s through 1990s. Anyone can now freely play these games in their browsers to relive those simpler days when side scrollers were the bomb.

frogger-digdug
Relive your childhood in your browser with classic games like Frogger and Dig Dug

And yes, it includes Defender.

It’s remarkable that the coin-devouring game of the 1980s generation is now free, sitting on a web page amidst hundreds of other games just as they used to in an arcade. The logical extension of this pattern is that the must-have games of today will one day find their place in history alongside their competitors in a cheap, if not free, massive database. You only have to check out the prices on popular game distributor Steam to see how quickly that can happen.

So love ’em or hate ’em, video games are here to stay.

Based on their trajectory, the future of entertainment could very well be dominated by gaming, even redefining the medium entirely. The rise of mobile gaming has made it easier than ever for anyone to play, and virtual reality technologies will offer entirely new ways to engage in stories and play. And you’ll be playing them because gaming principles are finding their way into all sorts of places, from education to corporate websites, as gamification design is merely in its infancy.

Considering how much our brains feed on positive reinforcement and achievements, our entire lives may be centered around getting that next power up. That’s really the power of video games – whether by serendipity or design, gaming activates our brains in ways that can be more appealing than reality, for some. Imagine how much more enrapturing they’ll become when gaming is deeply rooted in neuroscience and augmented reality and Internet of Things technologies embed games into everything, blurring the line between the physical and digital worlds.

When that day comes, video games will not just be part of the culture, they’ll be the culture.

[image credit: Internet Archive]

I've been writing for Singularity Hub since 2011 and have been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. My interests cover digital education, publishing, and media, but I'll always be a chemist at heart.

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