Over the last few weeks, I’ve been on something of a Back to the Future kick. I suppose this may have something to do with the classic trilogy’s recent release on Blu-ray, or simply because I am a science fiction nut that loves awesome movies. Regardless, there is something about the movies that always strikes me when I watch them, especially when dealing with Back to the Future II’s projections about the future.
If for some reason you’re not remember correctly, or a large rock fell on your head and deleted megabytes from your brain, Back to the Future II has some fairly outlandish predictions about where humanity’s technology and sense of style was supposed to be in the year 2015. The notable (and laughable) examples would be that of shoes that tie themselves, flying cars, and home fusion reactors.
While this movie is obviously a comedy, it’s still something that I think that people tend to do in general when we talk about the future: in some ways we wildly over project, and in others we are floored by things we never thought of. The same is true for video games.
If you had asked the 15 year old version of myself what I thought gaming would look like in 2010, I have several ideas about what that punk would have told you. Each of these ideas was inspired by the things that affected me most at the time, and the games that truly captured my imagination. To me, the games that most clearly signified what the future would be covered a wide array of genres and styles of play. They ranged from first person shooters to RPGs, and existed on both the console and the PC.
One of the first experiences that struck me around this time as feeling like the future of gaming had arrived would have to be Super Mario 64. For the first time, 3D worlds felt fully realized, gorgeous and big enough to get lost in. There was nothing quite like flying with the winged cap, soaring about and taking in all the sights there were to see. I would sometimes spend hours just going through all of the different worlds, experiencing the crisp controls and mastering all of Mario’s skill set.
At the time, I remember feeling that some day, all game worlds would be like this: sprawling and enormous, with an unprecedented amount of interactivity. The interesting thing about it is that this both is and isn’t true in 2010. In some ways, we’ve seen this grow in leaps and bounds. Games like Oblivion or Grand Theft Auto have given us big worlds to run around in and make our playground, where we can do what we please. A huge city like GTA IV would have blown my mind back in those days. However, the idea that even in this day and age, many of the buildings or nooks and crannies of this world are just there for window dressing still disappoints the kid in me, even though I know it’s not realistic in terms of putting the game together.
Another thing I expected from gaming in the future would have to be completely photo-realistic graphics, that looked akin to playing an actual movie with your own two hands. The first time I saw CG cut scenes in Final Fantasy VII, I remember thinking that some day games would look like that, and we’ve definitely surpassed that. There are certain games and engines that still blow me away, particularly anything made in the Unreal engine. The first time I played Gears of War, I remember thinking we’d truly arrived in that day I had dreamed of, where games were looking more like that.
The funny thing about all of that is in some ways, game graphics feel like they’re hitting a plateau. Even more interesting: I don’t think this is a bad thing at all. It’s forcing more developers to try and come up with unique art styles, to show us things we’ve never seen before. 15 year old me just wanted everything to look like an action movie. Current Eddy knows that stylized games like Limbo, Heavy Rain and Red Dead Redemption are some of the most gorgeous things I’ve played to date.
On and on these presuppositions go. I could sit here and list all of them out (such as how I never really thought I’d want to play multiplayer games with people that weren’t in the same room), but I wanted to go ahead and ask what you guys think about where gaming is.
1. 10 years ago, what kinds of predictions would you have made about 2010, and what did you expect gaming to be as you got older?
2. How close would you say we are to the mark, and in what ways do you still want gaming to grow?
3. Where do you expect gaming to be in 2020?