Using Thumbs to Create Art: The Future of Gaming

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Written By Austin Hall (@ADWAustin)

We’ve come a long way from Pong.

One of the earliest video games ever created, Pong, released in 1972, is as close as you can get to a literal definition of a video game, because it’s just that: a game on a video screen. You have two “paddles” and a white “ball” that you deflect until it leaves the screen, like ping pong. During this period, I doubt many people thought video games would sink their teeth into the culture of today. Even That ’70s Show has a joke about how Red thinks soldering is the future, not video games.

Yet, video games have been around for decades, and now, they’re a bigger part of popular culture than ever before. There’s the ELEAGUE, where you can view players on TV, YouTube, or live and in-person, playing multiplayer battle-style games. There is even a site dedicated to this: Twitch, where you watch live streams of other gamers playing Fortnite or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) for hours at a time (you can even pay to watch ad-free). It almost goes without saying, but you can make a lot of money doing just this.

Nowadays, it’s even seeped into areas that had once shunned video games. There’s the stereotype of coming home from school and playing Halo, while the jocks were out competing in sports. That’s no longer the case: It’s bled into sports, and at an alarming degree. In fact, in the NBA 2K League, players play basketball online while representing real NBA organizations (They’re also paid more than athletes in the NBA G League).

Athletes themselves have fallen for video games, too. NBA players stay up late to play Fortnite and it was speculated that Red Sox ace David Price got injured from playing it. Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster has a huge online following when he plays Fortnite. Even recently, a hockey player may have ruined his career from playing video games. So yes, there is a downside to the hobby.

Also, like most hobbies, it comes with a price tag. Electronic Arts (EA) was recently slammed for making a paywall in Star Wars Battlefront II. Even simple mobile games, if addictive enough, make you pay for the full experience. Freemium games start out as free downloadable apps, but quickly advertise costly upgrades to improve the gamer’s experience. Heck, in my lifetime alone, console games have gone from $40 to $60 in cost, and who knows what it will cost years from now. It’s not cheap, unless you get paid millions to play.

So, like many things in life, the more popular something gets, the more insidious it becomes. There was GamerGate, where a female video game developer was attacked online from various sides because an ex-boyfriend claimed that she cheated on him. Sometimes, the games themselves go too far. Someone actually made a game based on school shootings, an act made more vile by the fact that it has been argued in the past that school shootings happen because of video games.

So, where do we go from here? What is the future of gaming? How popular will it get? Here is where I make my guess: Virtual Reality. With a simple headset and headphones, you can walk into a fully-realized, 3D world and truly immerse yourself in the game. There are already a few of those out there, but my guess is it won’t be fully realized until the next generation of games. In that way, it’s kind of the perfect metaphor: the more video games become a part of our daily life, the more we can enter those worlds.

What’s most exciting to me is the storytelling aspect of gaming. Though I play my fair share of sports games, I love a good story-driven game like BioShock or Batman: Arkham Asylum. These games showed me, and the world, that you could tell a story in a truly unique way. Instead of passively watching a story unfold, you can be a part of it.

The best example of this are games like Gone Home and What Remains of Edith Finch, both walking simulators that have no levels or power-ups, no bosses to beat or online multiplayer, but a short and sweet story that you walk through to discover. Both of those games were some of the greatest moments I experienced playing video games, because it felt like I wasn’t really playing a video game at all. As the gamer gets smarter and more used to gaming tropes, games will have to continue to reinvent themselves in order to make games feel like new experiences. That’s how art works.

At the end of the day, there is a reason we play. Video games aren’t all toxic internet hate and violence in the games themselves. They are a collection of multi-layered, and in many cases, deep explorations into the stories they tell. Some of my favorite moments in games truly pushed the genre as an art formThere is beauty in it all, if you keep on playing. The thing is, only new perspectives will bring about new adventures that everyone can enjoy. If game developers start representing the more diverse gamers themselves, we’ll have more reasons to play, hopefully without paywalls and ruined careers.

The bottom line is, when even Indie games can make a name for themselves in this medium, the possibilities of where we go from here are endless. Just think of how far we’ve come: a ping pong game to a Battle Royale.

Even thinking back on VR capabilities, we could see an infinite amount of new world-building possibilities. I see a future of diverse voices creating diverse characters that show you something you’ve never seen before in a way you’ve never experienced before. That, more than the device I end you playing it on, is what excites me the most. Frankly, isn’t that what art is all about?


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