My initial feeling about this trip was excitement! It was awesome to get to attend Nordic Game this year! It was the 12th time the conference was held and it promised good times right from the start based on the speakers and the nominees. The indie game night was the absolute highlight of the event in my opinion. The nominees were fresh and interesting! Besides, it is always a rare treat to get to play the game while chatting with the developers themselves.
It turned out that I had a lot of favourites among the speakers, but here I have been trying to concentrate on the ones that fit the subject of ”The Future of Gaming”. They raised a lot of hopes and questions in my head about the future and I will try my best to sum it up here.
The Future of Gaming
It seems that Virtual Reality will be a huge part of the future of games. There is a lot of going on on that front today since we are currently living in a historical period where it is actually possible to make affordable VR devices for the consumers. In the past there has been a lot of attemps in the field of VR ( See for example The Sensorama on the left!), but there hasn't been a real market for it yet. Now magically we seem to have hit an era where there is the will and the way to make Virtual Reality happen. People are widely interested in VR and there is starting to be a suitable market for the developers to aim to. This isn't the case just in the games industry! Virtual Reality movies and tv-shows are propably starting to pop up more frequently in the future. Still even though the VR offers a lot of opportunities, it also makes the developers face new kinds of problems that come with the new found player immersion.
Jed Ashforth( Senior Game Designer at Sony Europe ) discussed few of the challenges that come with VR and the practices they have found to be effective while developing Project Morpheus.
He was telling how developers should forget the movie-style design and think about how you would design a great theme park ride! Most of the effects and ques you are used to using in traditional game design won't work in VR perspective. The presence of the player inside the game world multiplies the feeling he/she is investing into the game. So all the scares players are normally able to handle can be 1000 times more scary when they are directly in front of the players face. More precense also means that the immersion is more easy to break! So you have to be clear with your design choices and not to lead the player astray, give them what they expect so to speak. In traditional games some of these things are more forgivable or easy to handle since there is always a character you play as. In VR it is literally YOU who is inside the game. No developer knows what kind of package the player brings to the experience with them. Ashforth also emphasized how you should never take the control of players head! That breaks the immersion right away and may even cause some problems like nausea. The player comfort should be the top priority and he had some interesting ideas about how to make the game understand player's discomfort and change the content based on their feelings to assure the most pleasant game experience.
Chet Faliszek ( Writer for Valve Corporation ) also talked about the subject. He emphasized how it is vital not to make players sick! For example issues like locomotion and changes in player height can cause nausea. If the experience is bad for the players it will effectively kill the whole concept of VR yet again.
We also saw some pretty impressive tech demos from Just Cause 3 engine and several from Unity. It highlighted the fact that game engines are still going forward and they provide increasingly more variety and options for developers. VR was also mentioned several times.
A panel discussion on the second day that was organized by Diversi raised up some diversity and equality issues about videogames. The issue of women in the industry and games has been discussed widely in media lately and I was happy to notice that the panel wasn't just about that subject.
Something that I hadn't really stop to think about was how dominant the western developers are in the games industry. There isn't many games done by, for example, people from middle east. Okay, there isn't that many companies existing yet in middle east, but the passion is there and it is growing. The whole game culture we know is very western even though there is old giants in the east like Nintendo. Still most of AAA-titles come from Europe and America. I think one of the panelists presented a good example about a game that was solely about rolling carpets. I'm sad to say that I can't remember the name of the game, but his point was that the game was an experience that most of the western people can't understand because of their cultural backgrounds. He also said that he'd want to see a game that has bearded man of color as main character, not just as some prop you shoot at.
There was also a talk about diversity in game characters by Bioware's senior writer David Gaider and it was about some of the same issues as Diversi panel. He talked about his background and his work at Bioware. He also showed some character examples and made it very clear that it's not about filling ”quotas”. It's about reality. It is completely normal to have gay people, transgender people and people from different races. You see and meet them everyday, why it should be any different in games. Also some of his points how to make a character sexy without making it sexualized was spot on, in my opinion. ”You can have a lot of women in your games, but if they're all prostitutes, damsels and sexualized, what does that say about you? ” It is hard to find that balance, but it is vital and most of the players don't even stop to think about it at all. Diversity is an opportunity, not a limitation or a quota that should be filled just because.
So what do I think of all of this?
I personally see the future of videogames interesting. The way they are played will change due to new devices and I think it will go towards more and more realistic games. More immersive experiences! The software technology is certainly going towards it with engines that have simulated arm hairs and massive open world areas. The hardware technology is also providing interesting options in the forms of Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus and many others that will be battling for the title of "King of Virtual Reality" in the future. The one thing where we are lacking right now is the diversity in the industry and in games, but I feel that is going to change since the issue has been brought up several times. People find it important and that's why it raises so many emotions every time it is discussed. In my opinion we have to keep in mind that the issue isn't only games industry's problem, it is common in entertainment all over the world. Same stories are told with same stereotypes and by the same people. I personally want to see this change in the future! I can't wait for all the interesting stories that are still yet to be experienced by the players all over the world!