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Entries in gaming (5)

Thursday
Dec042008

Game Parlor of the Future (1982)


This two-page spread from a 1982 issue of Electronic Games magazine is pretty spot on with many of its predictions. However, being "chained to the family TV set" isn't such a big deal when Little Johnny Future now plays on a 72-inch monster TV. Thanks to Paul H. for sending this article my way.

The world of electronic gaming moves fast. The manufacturers regard any year that does not boast at least five major technological breakthroughs as a fallow twelve months. This time-lapse perspective makes foreseeing the future a particularly chancy business - predicting events weeks ahead can be perilous, crystal-balling the hobby as it will exist in the next century is like walking, unarmed into a dragon's lair. You might sneak out with the treasure, after all, but chances are you'll be incinerated.

 

Keeping all this firmly in mind, the fact is that the calendar on the wall reads "1982." We sit a little more than a year away from the day when George Orwell envisioned gigantic TV monitors in every home and on every street corner. Big Brother, he feared, would be watching us very closely.

Actually, Orwell's vision was somewhat clouded. What he though were images of fascistic governmental overlords were, in fact, great big videogames! Those big-screen TV's arrived ahead of schedule, you see, so instead of using them to supress [sic] freedom, people decided to play games on them.

Still, even 1984 is a good distance from 2001. Yet in researching the future of electronic gaming, certain fascinating bits of information and conjecture keep turning up again and again. Sitting down to put the puzzle together, at least a small portion of the future became clear. The smoke in the crystal ball began to dissipate and here's what we saw:

Obviously computers will play a major role in the arcader's future. Some of them will be so specialized that they will realistically draw the player right into the contest. The computers will provide total sensory output: audio, visual, olfactory (smell), and tactile (touch). Systems can already be manipulated by voice commands, and even some home videogames are chatting happily back at us as well. Interactive fiction should continue to do well, as will role-playing games that involve the arcader in ever more personal ways (such as Prisoner and Network). Players will be able to assume the role of a detective, questioning the suspects in a murder case with full audio/visual accompaniment.

Graphics are the fastest growing area of game design in less than a decade. Technology has jumped from Pong to Zaxxon, with Atari and other coin-op companies reportedly testing three-dimensional games in Europe.

Look for arcades to be constructed along the lines of big-budget science fiction movie sets, with special effects a major attraction of the games. For example, there might be chairs that rock back and forth, swing from side to side or swivel a full 360 degrees.

"Gaming and interacting with machines is an appetite the public has only recently discovered," points out Tom Lopez of Activision. "With our fast-progressing technology, one constantly updating and improving upon itself, the boundaries that confine most games will become limitless. The computer will soon become a daily tool used by everyone. As microprocessors and transistors become more refined and are, in turn, mass-produced, prices will drop. Computers continue to offer more capacity for less money. It will be cheaper - and more stimulating - to play computer games than to pay to be entertained at clubs or concerts, or in packed sports arenas."

Since arcade games have the distinction of being designed for the purpose of executing one, specific program, they should be able to maintain an edge over home computers. The pay-for-play devices also utilize special monitors, that incorporate groundbreaking scanning technology, while home games remain chained to the family TV set.

The arcade games of the next century may not only be activated by voice command, but conceivably even by thought - at least in a sense. Something akin to galvanic skin-monitoring devices attached to the gamer's arm, perhaps in the form of a bracelet, could measure emotional response and even act as a triggering device.

In terms of futuristic audio, tomorrow's coin-ops - that is, if there still are such prehistoric items as coins still in use - will have miniature synthesizers to produce more highly defined sounds. There might even be devices to release pertinent smells at appropriate moments - the smell of gunfire for example. Such a machine could even blast the gamer with sound via headphones. Think about that for a second. Can you imagine the ambiance of a silent arcade? Now that would take some getting used to.

Visually, an expanded screen could project pictures all around the player. Special effect would be attained, with shutter lenses that use a liquid crystal diffusion process, in which a cathode ray delivers one picture after another in synchronized fashion, so fast and so frequently that it generates a convincing illusion of movement.

Picture this scenario: You are absorbed in a game of the future, seated within a totally enclosed environment. Images of shattering explosions, comets and asteroids whirl by as your seat shudders from the concussion. An asteroid passes so close you could almost etch your initials in its craggy surface. Over your headphones, meanwhile, your squad leader is passing on commands from headquarters. You have only split seconds to react, the results of an intergalactic battle hangs in the balance.

"When the games become transparent to the viewer, it will be so realistic, you'll feel you were there. Then the form of the game itself will disappear - as if it melted - and you will forget you're playing a game," predicts Lopez.

"We're rapidly reaching the point," concedes one computer expert, "where technology is outstripping our ability to use it." The ability of the computers man has constructed begin to awe us with their blinding growth. The ultimate solution to this problem may be the development of team-designing as a way of life in the arcade industry of tomorrow.

In the early days of videogames, a single individual created each program from conception to execution - everything but painting the title on the cabinet in some cases. As the sophistication of the industry grows, companies like Midway are setting up design teams, composed of people who specialize in each area of game invention. Some 16 creative artists and programmers combined talents to produce the marvelous Tron coin-op, with graphic concepts, audio effects and cabinet design handled by separate individuals under the supervision of a single manager.

George Gomez, head of the Midway in-house research and development group agrees that teamwork is the key to future game design. "It's too hard to find any one, or any two or three people with sufficient expertise in all the areas necessary to create a modern arcade game. We feel that areas such as cabinet and joystick design are vital elements in a game's success or failure."

Whether or not we'll see these innovations in the next century, the next decade or, perhaps, never, depends on the direction in which this wildly unpredictable business moves in the time ahead. But one thing does seem certain - electronic gaming will never die.

"People need sensory interface," as Tom Lopez puts it, "and electronic gaming gives that to people. More to the point, it's fun! Gaming is entertainment and it's here to stay!"

Even in the year 2001.


Read more:
Future Arcade Games (1985)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 3, 1993)
Computer Games of the Future (1981)
Virtual Reality (1980s-today)
Home Entertainment of the Future (1981)

 

Wednesday
Apr022008

Computer Games of the Future (1981)


This holographic computer game of the future is from the 1981 book Tomorrow's Home by Neil Ardley.

The caption explains, "A home computer game of the future has solid images of spaceships that move in midair. These are holographic images produced by laser beams. The game is played with other people who also sit at their home computers and see the same images. Each player controls a ship and tries to destroy the other ships. Guess which player is winning!"

The entire text of this two-page spread appears below.

Your day in the future continues. It's not a school day, so you can do whatever you like. However, it's raining, so you can't play outside. Although scientists can now control the weather, this is done only in certain places to produce artificial climates that aid farming. Your home is not one of these places.

 

Even though everyone is busy and you're stuck at home on your own, you're still going to have an exciting and interesting day. After breakfast, you rush on to the living room. It has chairs and other furniture in new designs as well as some antiques like a twentieth-century digital clock and a push-button telephone. However, the room is dominated by a large viewscreen linked to the home computer.

You ask the computer to contact several friends, and they begin to appear on the screen. Soon you're linked into a worldwide group of people, all of whom can talk to and see each other. After chatting for a while, you decide to play some games together. As you can't agree on what to play, the computer makes up your minds for you. It gives you puzzles to do and devises quizzes, as well as all kinds of electronic games. The computer keeps the scores as you play against one another, and then it gives you games in which you all play the computer. You carry on until someone loses interest and tries to cheat for fun. The computer finds out and everyone laughs. Then it's time to break up the party and have lunch.

After lunch you decide to spend some time on your own at a hobby or craft you particularly enjoy. Making things of all kinds is easy with the computer. You design them on the screen of the terminal in your playroom, and then the computer operates a machine that constructs the objects in materials such as plastics. This system is very good for making your own clothes. You can dress up in all kinds of fantastic garments that you design yourself. To avoid waste, the objects and clothes can be fed back into the machine and the materials recycled or used again.


See also:
Future Arcade Games (1985)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 3, 1993)
Virtual Reality (1980s-today)
Homework in the Future (1981)
Home Entertainment of the Future (1981)
Learning in 1999 A.D. (1967)

 

Wednesday
May022007

Future Arcade Games (1985)


The 1985 book Science: It's Changing Your World features this photo of a futuristic arcade game.

"Take that, Darth Vader!" Cruz Fino, Jr., 14, pretends to be a starship commander as he shows how an arcade game of the future might look. A player would sit inside a mini-dome. The player would shoot laser beams at video targets projected onto the wall. Though bright, the beams would of course be of low power and harmless. Cruz, whose father is a technician with Laser Images, Inc., lives in Van Nuys, California.

See also:
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 3, 1993)
Virtual Reality (1980s-today)

Thursday
Apr122007

Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 3, 1993)

Today we have part 3 of the wonderfully paleo-futuristic video Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future. Being partial to past visions of virtual reality, this may be my favorite part of Connections. Whether it's your favorite part or not, we still have plenty of this 1993 video to examine.


See also:
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 1, 1993)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 2, 1993)
Virtual Reality (1980s-today)
AT&T "You Will" (1993)

 

Friday
Apr062007

Virtual Reality (1980s-today)

10 Zen Monkeys has a great article about the paleo-futuristic promise of Virtual Reality. As the article points out, we may have things like Second Life, which is mentally gripping but is far less physically immersive than what was projected.

I remember looking at Nintendo's Virtual Boy in the mid-90s and thinking, "Finally! It's just a matter of time before virtual reality takes over the gaming market."

Jaron Lanier, the developer that was interviewed for the 10 Zen Monkeys article has a Top Eleven Reasons VR Has Not Yet Become Commonplace. It's worth a look. I find number 7 the most intriguing in a lot of ways.

"Because human acuity is so good that you can't get away with so-so specs as you can when the interface is less intimate, as with existing mass produced devices." I can't decide if the Wii proves number 7 or shows that technologies that are becoming more immersive are more attractive for their playability than their graphics.

The image above is from the Walt Disney World attraction Carousel of Progress which was updated in the late 1990s to include a futuristic family playing a virtual reality game.