Looking back at the past 10 or so years, even a casual observer can identify the exponential advancement of technology, particularly when it comes to electronics and computers. Theorists believe this exponential advancement will perpetually increase, and a time will come where we’ll be at the brink of something absolutely new.
Of course, the technical developments of the past decade or so have had a mighty influence on the world, concept and experience of video games. The most obvious difference between now and a decade ago is that of graphics, and it was an innate capability to foretell a time when we would actually be experiencing games with photo-realistic visuals. That time has, I firmly believe, already come.
But with it came substantial changes in the way a game is played. Ironically, even though these changes were substantial, the way they were introduced was subtle. For example, we once had mice with trackballs, potentially hazardous CRT monitors and minimal CPUs, and notebooks weren’t considered to be efficient gaming rigs.
Looking at the present, we have wireless mice ergonomically designed and specially made for gamers, wireless keyboards of ultra-high frequency with soft but distinct individual keys, water-cooled CPUs with a more than a couple of foot-long graphic cards, not to mention mammoth yet super-slim LED monitors which are energy-saving and safe for the eyes.
Even the consoles have noticeably changed; instead of wired controllers we have wireless ones – those too with force-feedback/rumble. In fact, the six-axis controllers and the Wii Remotes have introduced motion-capture.
These changes were noticeable, but were over-shadowed by the immense improvement in graphics. What was over-shadowed even more is how differently games played. A time came where games were about survival, about hardship and struggle. This was the time where some of the most difficult sophisticated 3D games came into being, such as the original Far Cry, the new Shinobi, Devil May Cry, and many others.
We’d had shares of difficult games in the 2D era, such as Megaman and the ultra-hard Contra games, but complex games of these types, with very intelligent enemies and sophisticated three-dimensional boss fights was both a treat, and an immense challenge.
What came in between was a stage where gamers were made to feel all-powerful. This is the most recent surpassing stage of gaming development. Games like Crysis (with the awesome nanosuit and its abilities), BioShock, Bayonetta, and others came into being, and their objective was to feed the gamers with the satisfaction of being a dominating, immensely powerful character.
But the generation of games that intrigues me most is the one at this moment. It’s a visible fact that 2011 is the largest heavily anticipated year in-terms of games after 2007, and with hot titles such as Battlefield 3, Batman: Arkham City, The Elder Scroll V: Skyrim, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Rage and many others, one can’t help but get the feeling that a change is coming.
What exactly is the change? It’s hard to determine at the moment, since this is the turning point. My guess is games will stop wanting to look good exclusively, as we’ve already reached photo-realism with engines like the Frostbite 2.0, id Tech 5, CryEngine 3 and the upcoming new Unreal 3 engine. Instead, they’ll focus more on the experience – not the story or gameplay only, mind you, but how you interact with the game, and how the game interacts with you.
This change is noticeable in consoles at the moment. The introduction of Kinect is already encouraging a totally new approach to playing games. Anticipated titles like Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and Mass Effect 3 are already looking to utilize Kinect’s features. Even the upcoming Wii U’s controller is looking to tap further into more sophisticated virtual control and motion-sensing technology.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the use of conventional controller was minimized and gaming turned into something similar to the PreCrime stuff in Minority Report.
Of course there are many other indications of what to expect in the future when it comes to games. Developers are becoming more and more aware of clichés and trying to avoid them to create relatively more original concepts. First-person shooter games are becoming more tactical, and tactical RPG games are becoming more shooter-like, indicating that the fine borders between game genres are thinning.
I can’t say for sure how games will play in the near future, but I do believe that a change that is overall efficient and prosperous is coming. For now, I can only just wait for some of those highly hoped-for games of 2011 to come out.