Innovation & Design

The Gaming World of 2025


Futurist, Glen Hiemstra, predicts a world inhabited by digital natives

While taking a break from playing digit-busting games like God Hand, our pixel-addled brains tend to wander. We mull over such questions as: Will robots make good friends? Will people stop spouting off about Battlestar Galactica? Most importantly, what video games will be like 25, 50 and 200 years from now?

To find answers to these questions, we tracked down Glen Heimstra, the founder of futurist.com, author of Turning The Future Into Revenue and visiting scholar at the Human Interface Technology Lab at the University of Washington.

Isn't a futurist basically a fortune teller with a university degree instead of a crystal ball?

[Laughs] In a certain sense... Basically, I spend a lot of time being a consumer of long-term future trend information. I think about where we're heading, why we're headed that way, and what we ought to be doing about it.

So what's the big, bad gaming story of the next 100 years?

In my book that just came out, I write about the six key IT trends and the MMORPG is definitely one of the six most important IT trends of our time.

Still out there on the horizon are more total immersion-types of augmented reality, which will become possible as tech gets better and cheaper. Games like Second Life are precursors to where we'll be in 25 years in terms of totally immersive environments.

Fifty years from now, the difference between real life and virtual life will probably be indistinguishable; it will be possible to be confused. And certainly that would be true 100 years from now. ...

How will the gameplay experience itself change?

You'll have independent avatars. These days you create avatars, and you move them around, but 100 years from now you'll create a dozen avatars and they'll all be playing at the same time independently from you. People won't know if it's you or your avatar they're interacting with.

Will people wear crazy-looking VR helmets or have rooms in their homes like they do in Ray Bradbury's short story, "The Veldt"?

Twenty-five years from now, interactive tools will likely be either virtual retina display glasses or contact lenses that somehow act as augmented reality screens as well as enable you to see the real world. Of course, your connection to the 'Net will be something that you wear all the time.

Contact lenses. Sweet.

Younger people are always into these kinds of games, and that will always stay historically true. They are leaders in terms of the adoption of these kinds of technologies. Twenty-five years from now, they will quite likely be in the game all the time. Even while they're attending school, going out with girlfriends, etc., they will also be "in" many games ... checking in from time to time to see how they're doing...

You're right about everything except probably the "girlfriend" part. Let's talk about violence. It seems like there’s always something to fight against in games. Will it always be about kicking ass/taking names?

Some people in and out of the game world think that as games get more immersive, and can mimic real life, they can finally move away from "hunt and destroy" kinds of games.

I don't see those kinds of games going away, but being added to. ... Sort of like the way that Second Life has a place where you can go play war games. It's one of the things you can do, but it's not the only thing you can do. Games will continue like that, offering [shooting/killing] as an option, rather than having it be the whole game.

Yesterday, two 15- or 16-year-olds stood on the street and held an in-depth conversation about the Macintosh Operating System while simultaneously typing on Sidekicks and listening to iPods. What's up with that? It makes people in, um, older generations look inadequate.

You've heard the term the "digital natives?" It's a great term. Baby boomers sort of invented microchips. Gen X invented the World Wide Web. And the digital natives, they live in that world.

How old are you?

Let's just say 30-something and leave it at that.

You're a digital immigrant.

Now, if you give a new game to a digital native, it takes him three to five minutes to intuit everything he needs to know.

I [tell] business audiences: if you're thinking about how you'll use IT in your businesses 20 years from now, don’t think about yourselves -- think about the digital natives. They will be the work force, and they'll take it beyond what we imagine. This is the way the world has always been.

For example, the idea of walking around inside three or four games at once while you're also conducting your real life, that might sound kind of far fetched. But if you think about those 14 and 15 year olds walking around now, you know, basically talking to the air much of the time, and then give them a set of contacts that enable them to see a virtual world while they also see you, and some gesture-based interface, and then make them 14 or 15 years old again in the year 2025, it's very realistic to think that would be a pretty normal and natural world.

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