Brookhaven National Laboratory Open House. October, 1958. The inception of the very first video game is realised by Physicist William Higinbotham in the form of a very simple back and forth tennis game.
So rudimentary was this project, that the player could guarantee that they would hit the ball provided it was in their court when they pressed the button.
Despite the primitive nature of the game, Tennis for Two quickly became an extremely popular exhibit, with queues of hundreds waiting to see the spectacle that was the infancy of what we now know today as the video game.
This game was not available in the home, for only academics and scientists had access to such technology in the 50's.
Although Tennis for Two was well received, it's unlikely the Brookhaven crew had any idea that gaming would develop into the global powerhouse that it is today.
Almost every home in the developed world houses an Ikea-friendly unit that can bring to life photorealistic character models, incredibly complex story branches and Virtual Reality options that are as terrifying as they are immersive.
Truly we can say that gaming is a paragon of modern entertainment, each year providing technology that facilitates exponential growth. We take a look at what the future can bring in the ever-changing and at times dystopian world of gaming.
The most recent generation of gaming seems to indicate that video game graphics have plateaued somewhat. Gone are the days where you could put a PS2 game next to a PS3 game and notice entirely different textures, polygon counts and assets.
Nowadays comparisons are usually consigned to frame rate distinctions as well as resolutions... For now.
With the advent of Unreal Engine 5, future graphics promise to showcase not only unrivalled buildings, character models and lighting, but all of these features realised on an enormous scale. Expect the likes of new Grand Theft Auto entries to establish vast game worlds with huge verticality and fully explorable interiors.
Unreal Engine 5 will also offer developers the opportunity to utilise real life photography into games, rather than using them as reference points. The new Lumina technology will facilitate real time ray-tracing and dynamic lighting.
A valid concern about the uncanny graphics of the future is the potential for losing the 'art style' that distinguishes games from others.
Take for example the instantly recognisable character styles present in Arkane Studios Dishonored (2016) - could photorealism present a threat to these unique selling points? Perhaps not, as it is clear from games such as Fortnite and Borderlands that a game can look breathtaking without relying on realism.
Out of Control
Virtual Reality is already becoming a key part of gaming. Whilst still not the primary focus of the gaming market, and still very much in its infancy, we expect handset free gaming to become much more popular in years to come.
Virtual Reality provides the opportunity for the player to step inside the world of a game with full peripheral immersion, and the chance to fully utilise the body to enact action within.
There are of course concerns about how prolonged exposure to VR gaming could effect the psychology of the individual, especially given the growing realism of the technology. We hope that gaming developers look into this thoroughly and implement safety considerations into every iteration of this groundbreaking platform.
In any case, V.R. will provide the user with the most immersive realisation of gaming out there.
Alongside V.R. we must not forget the Augmented Reality features expected to feature heavily in years to come.
Augmented reality will allow the player to incorporate game features into the real world and visa-versa. Pokemon GO gave us a flavour of this back in 2016, whereby the player could locate, capture and train Pokemon creatures that were mapped onto real world locations.
A.R. features are expected to play a key role in future gaming, especially seeing as such features are popular in on-the-go style games.
We must also put the onus on game developers to consider their social responsibility in making the virtual world public. Consider the potential for distraction as well as the possibility of hackers being able to distort what is in front of the player.
More than 20 million V.R. headsets are expected to be sold in 2023.
Whilst individually purchased games are still bringing in enormous amounts of revenue, the launch of PC Game Pass as well as individual developer subscriptions seem to point towards a future where a network of gaming exists, rather than the traditional pay per copy format.
Subscription based models offer the player a much greater choice of games to play as well as the freedom to stream certain games before committing to downloading the title in full.
For Xbox in particular, Game Pass has become a platform for showcasing games that are owned by or developed directly by the company itself. Find all Halo, Gears of War and Bethesda games included in PC game pass, with improved graphics and frame rates.
Playstation have taken a somewhat different approach, deciding instead to continue charging for most first party launch titles, but likely with the intention of one day including them on their subscription platform, PS Premium.
In recent times, game developers themselves have also pushed for their own subscription platforms such as Ubisoft+ as well as EA Play.
This is an encouraging and efficient business model, as fans of certain games have a tendency to play other titles by the same developer.
Picture for example a future where the gaming masochist could access all FromSoftware titles (Elden Ring, Dark Souls etc) for the monthly price of a cup of coffee, or one where the strategic conquerer can play all Age of Empires releases on demand.
There are those that say that subscription models encourage the development of mediocre games, because who would want to make a show-stopping title that could get lost in an ever growing library?
To those people we say, look at Deathloop, Forza Horizon 5, and keep an eye out for Starfield in 2023...
Check out Game Pass for PC
Since Sega and Atari consoles died a death in the mid to late 90's, the frontrunners of gaming have taken the form of a ruthless fatal 4-way between Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo and of course the unbeatable PC.
Whilst Nintendo have established their own niche in the market, the other three are expected to continue to battle it out in terms of consolidating the gamers into one place.
Every platform has it's own advantages at present. Xbox have the unbeatable value of Game Pass (and PC Game Pass) as well as a simple quick resume feature that makes switching between games as seamless as ever.
Playstation boast unrivalled haptic feedback in the form of the Dualsense controller.
Meanwhile of course, the PC dominates everything in terms of graphics, customisability and game selection...
It will be interesting to see how these platforms distinguish themselves from the competition as time goes on, especially seeing that next gen-home consoles are equivalent in power to mid-range PC's.
There have been some admirable attempts at competition in this decade, such as the now-discontinued Google Stadia and the highly successful Steam Deck. It will be difficult however to topple the 'big-four' - especially given the first party exclusives being put out by the likes of Sony Santa-Monica and Bethesda.
With Xbox's controversial acquisition of Activision (developers of Call of Duty), we anticipate that the console wars are to become as cut throat as they were in the late 2000's.
We expect that many more studios will be acquired collectively by Microsoft and Sony, but hope that the gaming monoliths will play fair and in good faith. We are all, after all, part of the same community.
There was a time that you could go to Game, purchase a copy of your favourite title, pay roughly £40, and that would be the last you would spend on it.
Since DLC became popular in the mid 2000's, many developers have created ways to increase revenue from in game purchases.
This has varied from purely aesthetic upgrades for character models all the way to fully pay-to-win style games such as the initial launch of EA's Battlefront II, which demanded payment to make any real online progress.
To be certain, the presence of these features has created controversy for young people and adults alike, and many developers have been accused of essentially creating a gambling casino for players.
That said, it is the player that facilitates this as much as the developer, and one cannot blame companies for looking to maximise profits. We hope that the future of this is approached responsibly.
A New Light
Smartphones are everywhere now. The average smartphone user checks their phone upwards of 96 times a day, and we all know that heart-in-throat sensation when we notice the absence of our device in our pockets.
Naturally the mobile market makes sense for game developers, after all, who doesn't have a smartphone these days?
As it stands, mobile games are unable to reach the visual fidelity offered on console, however the market is growing every year and with the development of 5G connectivity as well as more powerful microchips, the morning commute may well become the hotpoint for your daily gaming.
Whilst the naysayers may suggest that mobile gaming is not 'true gaming' due to the screen size limitations and awkward finger controls, products such as the phone mount allow this process to be simplified and more familiar.
We expect to see a great degree of interconnectivity between console gaming and mobile gaming in the future, as the Game Pass eco-system allows for remote play as part of a cloud streaming service.
As with any growing industry, there are ethical considerations that must be taken into account by the trailblazers of technology.
In a rapidly growing world where the 'internet of things' is ever present, we must acknowledge that with great power comes great responsibility, especially for young people.
This article was not intended as an open letter to the industry, but we must ask in good faith that the potential of tomorrow allows us to explore the future, not to exploit it.
The future of video games is bright, exciting and full of potential. We look forward to seeing where it takes us.
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Words - Don Spencer