Monday, March 12, 2012

SXSW: Journalists Discuss the Future of Gaming

            SXSW’s first panel of the day didn’t go so smoothly with technical difficulties constantly messing up the event. Microphones erratically changed volumes and the projector wasn’t working at first. Still, the insight that the journalists had despite the technicalities was interesting to say the least.

            The turn of the generation brought on new forms of gameplay. To start it off Morgan Webb from X-Play voiced that core gamers just aren’t interested in motion gaming. She believed that it’s not possible to have a real gaming experience from motion control and gamers are just lazy.

            On the other hand, Matt Buchanan from Buzzfeed believed that it’s due to an invasion of space. Core gamers are afraid that the hardcore games are under attack by a more intuitive control form. In addition, video games no longer appeal to a small audience rather it’s now drawing in the public, or casual gamers. Gaming was not an exclusive domain anymore. To add to this, Jamin Warren from Kill Screen pointed out that casuals outnumber the core audience and that’s a factor in the rejection of motion controls.

            The Verge’s Ross Miller chimed in on why he thought motion gaming is not readily accepted. He noticed that motion controls were going crazy. Instead of making a transition from the standard control method to slowly integrating motion features, developers are making large leaps. This essentially segregates gamers since they’re not used to it. An example he used is Mass Effect 3’s voice control system. This system was a subtle change therefore players were more open to the idea. Webb disagreed citing that it feels really stupid to talk to the television.

            N’Gai Croal from Hit Detection gave a short anecdote about adopting new pieces of technology. Croal noted that Siri is an excellent example because it doesn’t always work. There’s a level of imprecision and for hardcore gamers that’s hard for them to accept. With physical controls they can move precisely the way they want without errors but there are levels of imprecision that will be in motion controls. However, Buchanan made a point that the first 10 years of controls were terrible and it took a while before they got better.

            Changing the topic, Warren cited that there is an emotional response when players use motion controls. Using scientific studies as an example, he made a point that creating body gestures are emotional experiences. Agreeing with this statement Croal made a point in how Rock Band is a great example. While it’s not motion control, the alternative form of gaming or perhaps different inputs give varying emotional outputs.

            Branching off of different forms of input, Webb pointed out that too much information received from those inputs can be bad.  Croal, however, disagreed arguing that there is a lot of information that Left 4 Dead uses in order to deliver a unique experience. The AI director in the game calculates various sets of data so the encounters with the zombies are fresh. In addition, Miller expressed his idea of social networking to deliver a personalized experience. To further add to the discussion Buchanan used Eternal Darkness as an example. There is an insanity meter in the game and it manipulated experiences delivering a compelling emotional experience.

            With the kinks of the projector worked out, Matt Buchanan proceeded to show a PowerPoint presentation about controllers. There are three types: dumb, smart, and natural. Dumb controls are the physical controllers that we hold in our hands such as the PlayStation’s DualShock. He argues that while it’s specialized, ergonomic, and familiar to gamers it suffers from limited input and the potential to be complex. Buchanan also believed that these controllers will eventually die out with the exception of niche devices.

            On the other hand, smart controllers track motion and location. Sensor based controllers like the PlayStation Move and Wiimote fit under this category. Adding new dimensions of gameplay with the benefits of a traditional controller are what makes smart controllers great, however, people still haven’t figured out the best way to use motion controls and as a result it suffers for it. Additionally, it also suffers from the same limits of a dumb controller.

            Lastly, Buchanan discussed natural controllers.  Natural controls are divided into touch, gesture, and speech. The Kinect fits into the gesture and speech while the iPod fits into the former. Essentially natural controllers offer a variety of new gameplay experiences, become accessible, and possess more innovative potential. However, it’s not always suited for traditional gaming such as dumb controllers.

            Shifting topics entirely, Miller presented a PowerPoint called Evolving Playground. It essentially argued that the platform is a canvas for the designers, like an artist. It questions how players interact with a game and vice versa. Miller believed that platforms are barriers for players and developers. They create exclusive domains and it becomes obsolete in the end because everyone will eventually have the same set of features.

Cloud is one of those features. Miller believed that the future will integrate Cloud like onLive is doing right now. Personalization is another as previous gameplay experiences can build a better and more personalized one in the future. Lastly, information will be key for the future. The ability to have motion feedback, augmented real-time data, and data tracking will help to develop games better. All of these features will essentially exist across all platforms therefore making multiplatform pointless.

The last presentation of the panel was from Warren discussing the role of games in education. He noted that a school in Manhattan called Quest to Learn uses video games to teach students. By creating an environment where children develop systems based thinking, they have an opportunity to approach academics in a unique way. Currently, standard schools teach the usual subjects, after that you graduate and get a job. However, this school allows for critical thinking that’s unlike any other because in order to move on in a game, the player must learn its lessons.

Warren made the point that video games are not readily accepted by society and it’s hard to teach using video games. This is due to society’s lack of digital literacy. Because not everyone is literate in video games and in technology, society doesn’t treat it as a part of culture. Warren argued that it is in fact part of culture and everyone should be literate in video games.

In conclusion, Warrant believed video games can end up in two different places in the future. In the first, society will reject video games as a part of culture. On the other hand, they can be embraced by society and develop as a more accepted form of media.

Let’s hear your comments. What do you think of motion controllers? Were the journalists right on the dot or do you disagree? How about education and gaming? Would they go hand in hand or would it fail? I’m interested in hearing your thoughts!

Credit for the first 2 photos to Nicole Raney

1 comment:

  1. Video games will only get more popular as 'gamers' get older and start doing the jobs that people who have never played video games do.
    Also, eventually we will have virtual reality, and "plugging-in" will completely absorb film and television.
    Before that though, video games will be used more and more for teaching/training purposes, which will increase demand for a more immersive experience (virtual reality).
    Motion controls are but a small step in this direction, but in their current state they feel imprecise and contrived. Many Wii game controls detract from the experience, though the peripherals for Rock Band et. al. certainly add to it. The few DS games I played also seemed to have effortless control schemes, though when done poorly made the game unplayable (Phantom Hourglass and FFIII I'm looking at you).