Monday, 7 July 2014

The Future Of Video Games

I wrote this in June for Forces of Geek and it's something which plays on my mind a lot, I'm fearful for what the future holds for us gamers! If you want to get in on the discussion, share your thoughts or shout me down (or whatever) then please, take it up in the comments section!

Recently, me and a group of friends were discussing the future of television and it occurred to us that we never watch any shows or programmes as and when they are broadcast anymore. We either stream a whole series from Netflix or record live television to watch at our convenience, or watch an entire DVD/Blu-Ray box set and as most things tend to, it got me thinking about video games.

Specifically, their future and what the industry might be like if it follows the path of television. This led me to jet packs and flying cars. But it's quickly becoming apparent that those two things are never ever going to be in the present. But I digress.

Netflix suffers less limitations than regular television. You can choose when you want to watch, on what device you want to watch it and choose to any number of available season or episodes. When it comes to video games, there are some people who believe the industry will head in the same direction. I disagree. And furthermore, as I personally prefer to own a hard copy, I genuinely hope this will not become a reality.

Call me a hypocrite for having Netflix, Amazon Prime and Spotify accounts but the television, film and music industries are entirely different entities when compared to the games industry because they are all (arguably) well suited for streaming. When it comes to games, unless it's episodic (like Telltale Games The Walking Dead series), downloading or streaming is odd and cumbersome - especially if, like me, you suffer a really crappy Internet connection.


In the beginning, games were meant to be played for five to ten minutes at a time...or for as long as the amount of coins you had in your pocket lasted of course. As they evolved they became more sophisticated, with better game engines and improved graphics, story and gameplay. Soon, games lost their arcade roots and morphed into pursuits that required more than ten minutes to navigate vast, sprawling worlds and detailed narratives that require hours and hours of investment. 

Among my friends, there are many who have downloaded a game at least once, however the titles downloaded are almost always arcade titles, free games or DLC. I genuinely don't know anyone who has bought and downloaded a game (major shop AAA release title, i.e. GTA V) on its release date. The majority of gamers still purchase physical copies; we prefer the shiny round discs in their plastic formed boxes. We like to own stuff!

Michael Thomasson, the Guinness World Record holder for biggest video game collection (Image: via Kotaku)


When you think about it, there is absolutely no reason to own a special edition of a game title. The additional cost gives you a few extra weapons, a level or two, maybe a soundtrack, if it's really swanky, a plastic statuette - but how often do you play with said extra weapons or explore additional levels? Not enough to warrant the cost, I imagine. But we like it because a) it's a pretty trophy on a shelf and b) because it's limited and games have taught us to be covetous of rare items.

Having no physical copy of a game is meant to streamline and de-clutter our lives, because taking a disc out of a box, placing it in the drawer and pressing buttons is apparently a difficult and complicated task to perform.

The so-called benefit of downloading a game instead of owning a physical copy is that we take up less space in our living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms (maybe) but the truth is, most downloaded games aren't owned by us. They can be lost if a console decides to break - a day outside of warranty of course! Sure you can re-download them but that requires more hard drive space and besides, its wholly unnecessary if you OWN A DISC! Then there's the whole "you don't actually own the digital files you purchase" argument that still rages to this day. See comics, music and films for other examples of this.

In the same vein, think about the idea of the Kinect Controller...and before you stop me, yes I know...there is no controller - that's my point; being the controller didn't really take off like Microsoft had hoped. Gamers need the physical feel of a controller, the tactile nature of a shiny disc and the aural sensation that we get from the noise of a disc tray closing much like the sound of a coin dropping into an arcade machine and the feel of a joystick. That all sounded a little too sexual for my liking ... but, hey, I love games.


Without those things, we will come to associate gaming with other mediums like television; something we turn on, play straight away and take for granted. It would become disposable. Gamers will evolve into people who want short bursts of entertainment or a whole game series in one go. We'll shun lengthy games with decent game engines that take slightly longer to run, we'll want nothing but quick, drop-in, drop-out gaming between Netflix series' marathons.

And one could argue, that's what Microsoft wants us to do, with their stupid SmartGlass or whatever, and watching TV and sports with friends over Kinect, while playing Gears Of War 6 at the same time. It's a nightmare! I like turning on my games console to play a goddamn game, not to socialise with the flipping TV guide!


It's not just Microsoft either, this year at E3 Sony announced that PlayStation TV will now be available in all countries and home to lots of original programming, with consoles desperate to cash in on the success of Netflix and Amazon originals, I can foresee their focus eventually moving away from games and into TV tie-ins and like good little gamers we'll accept it because hell, we just love television!

This will be the end of games, not downloads or lack of discs but the potentially unnoticeable shift in our attitude to them - which by the time we are aware of will be far too late. Yes, that's right. I am pulling a "Skynet" on you. I am officially forewarning you. If you do not wake from your apathy and continue to shrug your shoulders and mutter "Meh, downloading is the same as going to a shop", mark my words, you will usher in the apocalypse!

DUN DUN DUUUUN!

Ok... overly dramatic. I appreciate that. But seriously, it's little things like this that wipe out entire console companies and all we'll have left is crappy Facebook trite like Candy Crush Saga or bloody Farmville. Is that what you want? Endless digital farms...as far as the eye can see? Consider yourselves warned.

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