Three Trends Driving Big Games – Social Un-tethered Games With Computers In Them

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by: Karl Long

Over the last couple of months i’ve started to become convinced that the concept of games is going to evolve over the next decade blending more and more the real world and virtual.

As Kevin Slavin from Area/Code, a company that makes “big games” says (i’m paraphrasing) “Games are going to get bigger and the computers will be in in the games as opposed to the other way round”.

I think there are three key trends that will drive this concept of Big Games way beyond it’s current niche role:

Current Trends:

  1. The rise of mobile converged devices – computer, phone, internet access, camera, audio
  2. The rise of the mobile “evernet” – persistent connections for mobile devices (3G, 4G and Wimax)
  3. Co-creation – the growth youtube, wikipedia, blogs, podcasts is an indication of motivation

Future trend:

  • Augmented reality – location based meta data in the real world, imagine wikipedia overlaying the street your walking down.

Mobile converged devices
Believe it or not that billboard in the photograph is a a barcode or semacode that you can take a photo of with your camera phone and if your have a fairly advanced device, lets say for arguments sake a Nokia Nseries, a web browser will automatically open and take you to a specific web page. This is just one example of technology out there currently that is being used in “big games” or ARG’s (alternate reality games). In 2006 there were 80 million of those converged devices sold (up 42% over the previous year), 2007 the projection is around 250 million converged devices (according to IDC and Nokia).

Mobile Evernet
We all know how persistent connections changed our relationship to our computers, information can be streamed in, we can use the network as an extension to our computer. It enabled things like World Of Warcraft, secondlife, youtube, and in many ways the rise of web2.0 and social media. Now imagine a persistent network connection on your phone, when you’re out in the real world, location aware, possibly even with GPS built into it. Games are dependent upon various gameplay mechanics which always include feedback, if you have a persistent connection on your mobile device feedback is possible constantly. I know this is a very general statement, but this will be the first step in augmented reality, feedback that is contextual to where you are, what your doing, and when your doing.

The greatest success stories in technology and on the web over the last few years have been co-created, customers, users, citizens, people have been building, commenting, contributing and creating the next web. When more and more people are mobile with creative tools in their hands, they are going to be the co-creators, co-collaborators of the big games. Multiplayer gaming is one thing, but when you have a portion of a city or country playing a game, and the value of that game is derived from the people playing it the results will be extraordinary.

Wouldn’t life be more fun if aspects of it became part of an ongoing game that you played as part of living your life? Surely that’s where games and play began, small microcosms that modeled real world so we could learn how to participate in it.

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