The Future of Gaming: Crash Course Games Part 2

Well, technology reporter Yannick Lejacq suggested that the future of video games could look a lot like television. For example, Square Enix’s release of Hitman in 2016 followed an episodic distribution model allowing players to purchase each of its 7 missions across an extended release cycle. Some players argued that this distribution model allowed developers to charge more for the entire series (which was clearly true by their pricing). Hitman developer IO Interactive claims that releasing a game in this way allows developers to actively shape and evolve their games over time as they analyze player behaviors and receive feedback from users.

So is episodic games a good thing or is it just a way to make more money? It’s hard to say, but none of this really matters if the industry doesn’t address what columnist Mark Hill claims is the industry’s biggest future problem: a reliance on nostalgia. Now don’t get me wrong, I love nostalgia – what up 90s kids!

But in 2015, IGN posted its top 11 biggest stories by traffic volume from that years’ E3, every story EXCEPT ONE was either a sequel, remake or existing game. With the tendency to see more and more remastered games and iterations of existing properties, the industry does seem to be appeasing players with nostalgia but at the cost of new and original content. But maybe budding game developers will fix the problem. The barrier to entry for game design seems to be lowering. You have Indie game developers, the four person team that started No Man’s Sky, even games being funded on Kickstarter. And as it gets easier and easier for developers to create great games, hopefully with them will come more diverse backgrounds and more diverse stories.

Games are telling more and more detailed narratives; we’ve come a long way from from the first cutscene in Pac-Man. Take the Last of Us in 2013, it has become one of the most awarded games in history, and its use of real voice actors and motion capture shows us just how far we’ve come from those digital voices of Castle Wolfenstein. Or, excuse me, [muffled] those digital voices of Castle Wolfenstein.

But then I suppose if you consider the almost nonexistant storytelling of Star Wars: Battlefront and the campaign-less Overwatch it’s harder to guess if improved storytelling is coming or going in future games. Or maybe it will just depend on the game. Now, board games may not be evolving at the same rate as video games, but they still have a promising future. As we discussed in our episode on American vs Euro-style board games, there seems to be a renewed interest in them, given increasing sales and attendance rates at events like the Spiel in Essen Germany and GenCon in Indianapolis, Indiana.

We may also be seeing another shift in board games design towards legacy gaming. Take the release of Pandemic: Legacy, Season 1 in 2015. In this game, each playthrough slowly, and permanently, alters the state of the game. The game is designed to be played only 12-24 times, and as players complete each session, game rules change, characters can be lost, and each win or loss affects future gameplay.

The Guardian journalist Owen Duffy called Pandemic: Legacy ocean extraordinary triumph of design, not just as a game, but as a piece of episodic storytelling. And this approach to game design isn’t that different than say an RPG campaign in Dungeon’s and Dragons. It’s a framework that allows this style of play to be more accessible to a larger audience, and given the game’s current first place ranking on Board Game Geek – and remember that’s out of 10,000 games (with Monopoly way near the bottom – why y’all hating on Monopoly?) – it seems to be doing something players like.

And on that note, what ABOUT players? Well considering in January of 2016 ESPN launched an eSports column, we’re starting to see and are likely to see more famous eSport players in the near future. And as more traditional sports broadcasters start to taking notice, maybe leagues will grow to the point that they get their own special night of the week just like football.

Maybe. But these expert-level gaming skills will extend far beyond just eSports athletes. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. According to the Gaming Advocacy Group the average gamer is now 31. That is to say we are entering a time period in which the current generation of adults, and all generations that follow, will have grown up playing video games.

And by the time an American has reached 21 they will have averaged more than 10,000 hours playing video games. To put that into perspective, that’s the amount of time a student would spend in school from 5th grade to graduation! So what does this all mean? Well, it means that future gamers are going to be good. Really good. Game designer Jane McGonigal theorizes that the United States is well on its way to an entire generation of expert gamers.

According to McGonigal gamers learn to be expert collaborators and problem solvers and that, “If future gamers could realize this potential and channel these skills, they would have the potential to tackle complex real-world problems.” McGonigal’s theory was put to the test in the online puzzle video game Fold-It which you may remember we mentioned in Episode 1. Fold-It is an online puzzle video game involving protein folding that awards high scores to the most efficiently folded proteins. The game allows anyone with a computer and Internet connection to login and try. In 2010, 57,000 players effectively outperformed algorithmically computed solutions. And in 2011 players helped decipher the structure of an AIDS-causing monkey virus that had gone unsolved for 15 years in 10 days. Thanks Thought Bubble.

So McGonigal might be onto something, but one thing is definitely clear: We are becoming a society of gamers and surely with all this experience we must be getting good at something. So yes, this has been a lot of speculation, but what do know and can see is that our game worlds are continually merging with our real world. Blurring reality in VR, teaching us in classrooms, allowing us to live alternate lives in fantastical worlds, encouraging us to assume the roles of other characters in our own world.

And of course catching those Pokemon on Pokemon Go. Games help us form friendships and communities, giving us a place to compete with others all over the world, and of course just giving us something to do while we wait in line or sit on the toilet. You know you do it, don’t, don’t you judge. So whether it be on an arcade machine, a home console, a mobile phone, a Basketball Court, or a Dungeon in your imagination, or through virtual reality, there is always a place for you to play because gaming reflects the diversity in ourselves. I am truly excited for whatever the future of gaming will bring and I hope you are too.

I’m Andre Meadows and thank you for co-oping along with me and thank you for watching. Good game everyone. A winner is you. Game Over!

Crash Course Games is filmed in the Chad and Stacey Emigholz Studio in Indianapolis, Indiana, and it’s made with the help of all these nice people. If you’d like to keep Crash Course free for everyone, forever, you can support the series at Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows you to support the content you love. Speaking of Patreon, we’d like to thank all our patrons in general, and we’d like to specifically thank our High Chancellor of Knowledge, Morgan Lizop, and our Vice Principal, Michael Hunt. Thank you for your support.

The Future of Gaming: Crash Course Games Part 1

Hello, I’m Andre Meadows, and welcome to the final episode of Crash Course Games! Yeah, that’s right, you made it to the final level. If we go one more, kill screen. Yes, we’ve had a lot of fun here talking about games and we thought what better way to sign off this series than to take a look towards the future of gaming. Now this is the future we’re talking about here, and I don’t have a crystal ball, so this episode is going to be a bit more speculative than what you’re used to. Also this was filmed in 2016 so just keep that in mind.

eah, that’s right, you made it to the final level. If we go one more, kill screen. Yes, we’ve had a lot of fun here talking about games and we thought what better way to sign off this series than to take a look towards the future of gaming. Now this is the future we’re talking about here, and I don’t have a crystal ball, so this episode is going to be a bit more speculative than what you’re used to. Also this was filmed in 2016 so just keep that in mind.

But that being said today we’re going to do our best to look at some of the major gaming genres we’ve discussed in this series and make some predictions about where they may be headed in the future. We’ve talked about a lot of different types of games on this show. We even did an episode on sports. But we’ve spent a lot of time in this series talking about video games, and since they seem to be changing so quickly with improvements in technology, their future is the most difficult to predict. But I think we can say we’re pretty sure about a few things: video games and online casino games are going to continue to get more immersive and reach an even broader audience.

From Slug Russell’s Spacewar! (exclamation point) on the $120,000 PDP-1 to Bethesda’s Fallout 4 on the $300 Xbox One or PS4, improvements in technology have given more players than ever the opportunity to play great games, and we hope to see that continue into the future. But the future of the console itself isn’t completely certain. Perceptible improvements from generation to generation are diminishing. And the wow factor players once had when moving from 2d side-scrollers like Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog to 3d rendered worlds in Super Mario 64 and Sonic Adventure aren’t going to happen again, at least not on our televisions.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that consoles are doomed. Microsoft’s Xbox chief, Phil Spencer, suggests that consoles will continue to see much innovation but it will soon become more iterative like our cell phones. And this may already be starting to happen if the recent mid-cycle updates of the PS4 Neo and Xbox Project Scorpio are any indication. Our games might get smarter too.

Neural networks and deep learning are driving better and better artificial intelligence. Google DeepMind published a paper last year in which they trained an AI to play 49 video games from the Atari 2600, and it beat a top human player in 23 of those games. And just this year, they taught it how to navigate 3D mazes such as those in fps games like Doom!

Maybe one day NPC’s won’t just walk into walls but react, hide, ask questions, and provide valuable aid, just like real players. And that’s when the robots take over. Judgement Day. And like we’ve seen from the move first to cartridges, then to CDs, DVDs, blu-ray, even flash drives and SD cards, games tend to follow the most advanced storage formats. But what’s next?

The death of optical media seems almost certain, but some players still want to own physical copies of their games. For example, in 2013, when Microsoft announced that the upcoming Xbox One would require an Internet connection to allow their system to actively manage and store digital content on their cloud service, there was an immediate backlash from players, and Microsoft shortly after retracted those hardware requirements. But as I mentioned before, console manufacturers seem posed to start iterating much more frequently and, technology journalist Kyle Orland believes, “the console game market may start to resemble the app market on mobile phones” in the future. That is digital games libraries may follow the user, but software platforms could remain locked.

This model is actually somewhat similar to the current PC gaming model on Steam. But what about games? Games are only going to get better, right?

Sigma Derby Game | History

RICK: My buddy Casino downtown is thinking about selling his Sigma Derby racer. This is one of the coolest machines ever made for Vegas. So I’m going to go see if I can buy it.

DEREK: Here it is. This was like the coolest thing in the world back in the ’80s. Me and my buddies used to play this thing all night long. You know, it’s not like–

CHUMLEE: Rick, can I borrow a couple bucks? RICK: I got $100s. CHUMLEE: That’ll do. – Bring me change. – Yeah. I’m going to get two rolls of quarters. RICK: Or 10.

DEREK: Sigma Derby is a slot machine that 10 people can play microgaming together. This is a machine that has a life unto itself. And you know, a lot of people believe if you come to Vegas and make your first bet on Sigma Derby, it’s good luck for the rest of the weekend.

RICK: Back in the day, I absolutely loved these things. You and all your buddies could play the thing, and it only cost a quarter. You know, it limited the amount of money you could lose. You have to wait for all your buddies to make a bet, and then you’ve got to wait for it to go around. It’s not like a slot machine that takes two seconds. That’s right. It’s a community slot machine. You can have a drink here, and everybody’s in it together. RICK: Did you win, Chum? – No. [chuckling] This machine is pretty iconic here in Vegas. There’s only a couple of them left, and I know it could be worth a ton of money. I just got to see what he wants for it. So you’re thinking about selling it, maybe? You know, we’ve had it up here a couple of years. I love this game, but– but I’m open.

OK. How much do you want for it? DEREK: Well, this thing is pretty special. I’d probably need about $80,000. RICK: Um, I have no idea that’s a good price. So let me call a buddy of mine, and let me have a look at it. All right? – All right. [FUN CONSOLE ORGAN STYLE MUSIC PLAYING] DEREK: I’m so proud of this machine that if Rick can bring an expert in, I’m excited about it, because I think he’s going to see what great shape this in. RICK: So what do you think? NICK: I like it. Let me tell you a little bit about the machine. Sigma was created by Katsuki Manabe back in the ’60s. And he learned quickly, to compete in the slot machine industry, you need to make machines that are not like everybody else is making. So he made this. And just about every major casino in town back in 1985 had one of these. But this particular machine is really nice to see, because it works. That was the biggest problem with these, is that they were always breaking down.

Well, what do you want to know? Well, does it run right? Apparently it runs right. What do these things go for? It’s very rare to find one of these really working, and he’s got all 10 stations that are running. I’ve seen them as low as $7,000 in unrestored shape, but on this shape, probably at least $30,000, $40,000. RICK: OK. Well, cool. Thanks, man. – Hey, you’re welcome. Very nice to meet you. DEREK: Hey, great to meet you. CHUMLEE: Hey, Nick? Yeah. CHUMLEE: Before you leave, can you change the settings so I can win? NICK: I would love to, but that would be cheating. A collector would want this, because it’s unique. But first of all, you got to have a place to put it. And then, you have to find the right buyer that’s going to invest their– their basement space for this. So yeah, I mean, if they get a good price for it, yeah, it would be a good buy. RICK: So how much did you want for this thing? DEREK: You know, for me, I needed $80,000. RICK: Um, that’s not going to happen. Well, I guess I can’t make you an offer. There’s just no money here. Well, thanks, man. Thanks for showing it to me. – Thanks. Brings back memories. Come on, Chum.

CHUMLEE: Hold on. I’m waiting on this last race. RICK: Chum. I’ll meet you in the car. One minute behind you. RICK: OK, if you’re not there in two minutes, I’m leaving without– you’re walking to the shop. DEREK: You know, for us it’s still something really special. I think at the price the expert put out there, it’s worth a lot more to us on the floor. CHUMLEE: (EXCITEDLY) Yeah! Woo. Hold up, Rick. Let me cash out. [coins falling]