The Future of Gaming | Games, Gamers, & Gaming, September 15, 2016

While video game evolution has reached something of an equilibrium, there are still many places to go. Let’s take a look at what games, gamers, and gaming have to look forward to in the future.

Man with virtual reality goggles watching 3d VR multimedia conteVideo games are one of the most forward-moving entertainment media and are constantly changing. While video game evolution has reached something of an equilibrium, there are still many places to go. Let’s take a look at what games, gamers, and gaming have to look forward to in the future.

Back to the table

Tabletop gaming has never truly declined in popularity; however, because it lacks the dazzle of digital gaming and the main components of most board games—dice, cards, and grid sheets—have remained largely unchanged for decades, they don’t demand the up-to-the-minute coverage that video games do, but they’re as popular as ever.

The economy continues to put a strain on middle-class families, young professionals, and older adults. Many people in these demographics enjoy games, and while video games have not risen in price, their cost of ownership—downloadable content, the need for high-speed Internet, and “freemium” games that are free to play but require in-game purchases to make the most of the experience—continues to increase. Board games are a cheaper alternative; they can be played to their fullest extent even without expansion material and added content, and they require nothing but physical space.

We’ll see more releases featuring recognizable properties, and more advanced board games once only available at specialty stores will find their way into big-box retailers. Even as video games become more expansive in scope, the audience for board games will increase.

Formerly known as versus mode

Competitive gaming is a legitimate pursuit and here to stay. With both video games and tabletop games seeing tournament play with six-digit prizes, it’s possible to be a professional gamer (incredibly difficult, but not unattainable). What’s more, the best gamers get sponsorships from major gaming hardware manufacturers, and there have even been gambling and—believe it or not—doping scandals in the competitive video games scene.

We’re only going to see more competitive gaming encompassing more games. It’s not unthinkable to imagine a sort of gaming Olympics, or a situation in which professional gamers are hired to promote products that have little to do with games and gaming. As the popularity of competitive gaming rises, we’ll see even more games that lack a single-player mode and focus on online competition.

It won’t be long before professional gamers are legitimate celebrities, recognizable even to those who don’t game regularly, and e-sports rise in popularity as a spectator sport. Yes, video and tabletop games are different from athletic endeavors in that they have a lower barrier of entry and employ other skills, but that doesn’t mean competitive gaming can’t and won’t enjoy the popularity of professional sports.

Augmenting reality

This summer saw the release of a game that can only be described as a juggernaut: Pokémon GO. While video games regularly garner fan followings and reach global audiences, it’s rare that a game can be described as a true phenomenon, one that fundamentally changes the way we socialize and use technology.

As a game, Pokémon GO is neither complex nor innovative; the only true difficulty is having the patience and endurance to explore your neighborhood and areas of interest in hopes of catching all 100-plus Pokémon.

What is atypical is the social element. This game both passively and actively encourages teamwork, community building, and social interaction. Since there’s no ultimate winner, there’s no harm in sharing information on where they have found certain types of Pokémon, and groups of players often gather in certain hot spots. This creates an organic atmosphere of socialization; thousands of people in any given area instantly have something in common.

What’s noteworthy about this is that the game actually has no social networking functionality. Users can’t create a friends list, send messages to one another, or see in-game who is close by. All social interaction is done outside of the game but directly related to the game, making it a social space unto itself.

We’ll see more of this in gaming moving forward. Fully realized mobile gaming that works with location services and augmented reality (AR) will soon become the norm, and games will become more of a catalyst for socialization even as they offer fewer tools for interacting directly with other players in the virtual space of the game itself.

Looking back to forge ahead

With a renewed interest in tabletop gaming, a shift away from narrative-driven single-player games back to competitive gaming, and the gradual stripping away of built-in social networking in favor of “real life” interaction, it may seem like gaming is regressing. However, these trends demonstrate that gaming is becoming ubiquitous in our lives. It’s everywhere, comes in many different flavors, and helps build relationships and create memories.

Until next time, keep telling yourself: just one more level.

M. Brandon Robbins is Media Coordinator, Goldsboro High School, NC, and a member of the 2011 class of the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders

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