Will Wright about trends in video games
POPsci features a very long and insightful interview of Will Wright (game designer of The Sims and working on his next project called Spore). IMO, the article is important because it describes the current trends in the gaming industry. Let's see some of them below with quotes: The first trend is certainly the interest towards user-generated content. Wright wants to turn players in "Pokemon designers, Neopet designers, or Pixar designers":
I think Second Life is interesting because they have given the players such huge control over the environment (...) In Spore, the tools are more and more powerful than they were in The Sims, so the next step is, now, how do we take those things and use them to build a narrative (...) Every time the player makes something in the game – creature, building, vehicle, planet, whatever, it gets sent to our servers automatically, a compressed representation of it. As other players are playing the game we need to populate their game with other creatures around them in the evolution game, other cities around them in the civilization game, other planets and races and aliens in the space game, and those are actually coming from our server and were created by other players. So there's an infinite variety of NPCs that I can encounter in the game that are continually being made by the other players as they play. (...) We're going to have different feedback mechanisms. One of the things we're going to be doing continually is rating the most popular content, so when you make a creature you're going to be able to go to what we call the metaverse report and get a sense of what is your creature's popularity ranking relative to other people's creatures.
And he recognizes that an economy that emerges out of it is inevitable: as in Second Life, it will develop, go on eBay or other platforms and might lead to "some sort reward".
Second, gaming foster an "augmented sociality" that is based on the content and is achieved not in the game itself but with other channels:
the asynchronous socializing through content, which we're already seeing in The Sims web community. huge communities form with very well-known people based on the content they've made, other people taking that content and telling cool stories with it.
Third, the educational model of using games is now less about directly teaching content/facts but rather making people know processes. This has been a long discussion in psychology and educational sciences but there are still some people trying to design games to make kids learn irregular verbs or Napoleon's battles. Actually, the thing is that video games are less good at declarative learning (content) and better for procedural learning and problem solving. And it's good to see a game design such as Will Wright agreeing with that:
I think in a deep way yeah [answering the question "Do you see Spore, or the rest of your games for that matter, as being educational?"] – that's kind of why I do them. But not in a curriculum-based, 'I'I'm going to teach you facts' kind of way. I think more in terms of deep lessons of things like problem-solving, or just creativity – creativity is a fundamental of education that's not reallytaught so much. But giving people tools.
And finally, concerning the future of gaming, Wright addresses the articulation between interactions in the physical environment and digital interactions. In a sense, the question can be rephrased as how to turn data generated from real-world interactions and put them back in the game to enrich the playful experience:
One thing that really excites me, that we're doing just a little bit of in Spore... I described how the computer is kind of looking at what you do and what you buy, and developing this model of the player. I think that's going to be a fundamental differentiating factor between games and all other forms of media. The games can inherently observe you and build a more and more accurate model of the player on each individual machine, and then do a huge amount of things with that – actually customize the game, its difficulty, the content that it's pulling down, the goal structures, the stories that are being played out relative to every player.
Why do I blog this? this is a quite good overview of the current game trends (and I left aside some other issues). Besides, it's pretty refreshing to hear them from a game designer and not from observers/researchers who try to shake the game industry.