Sunday, May 01, 2005

End of the Game Industry

So before I break this blog trying to get rid of the forced extra white space on either side (please feel free to offer help) and make other small changes I wanted to take the time out to respond to John C. Dvorak, a contributing editor of PC Magazine, who wrote an article the other day entitled: Doom 4: End of the Game Industry in which he proclaims the gaming industry is dead... or at least doomed.

Basically his argument is that games have not changed since the invention of the first person-shooter. He claims there are only five categories of games: shooters, puzzles and mazes, adventure games, sports games, and simulations. He goes on to claim that all of today's hottest games are combinations of two or three of these categories. But I think that is way to broad a statement to be a valid base for his argument. That is like pointing out there are only seven different story types and then spouting off that nobody has written an original story type in centuries so literature is doomed.

Yes, FPS games are very popular right now. There are a ton of them out there and many more in development. But it’s not like we haven’t been here before. I remember Joystick magazine article about how they were sick of “maze games” (a.k.a. Pac-man clones) back in the 80’s. I remember spouting off about how I was sick of “side-action fighting games” (a.k.a. Street Fighter clones) in the 90’s. And now he is sick of “first person shooters” (not that I imagine he plays many games, which might actually be the problem here.) None of these trends led to the doom of the industry and when it was time a new genre immerged or evolved. I’ve was part of the team that created the Real-Time Strategy genre with “Dune II.” I know Brett and Joe weren’t trying to invent a new genre; they were just trying to make something fun. And based on the above list, RTS games would probably get lumped into the simulation category anyway.

He claims that computer gaming has always been sustained by never-ending improvements in resolution and realism and then asks, “What is going to sustain growth once we get to photorealism?”

That whole point/question points out how narrow-minded the article is. How about we move off the computer screen and go out in the real world. There are already several games that are using mobile computer technology to take games out into the world. For example Uncle Roy Is All Around You which I guess Mr. Dvork would dismiss as just another game in the Puzzle and Maze category.

How about in the future when you can pop on a pair of special glasses that render the GUI and game objects on the back your retina. Then you can run around your neighborhood playing yet another FPS. No accidentally being shot by police who think you are holding a real gun, its rendered by the software and the gloves you are wearing give you the feedback that you are holding something. Yeah that’s a little far fetched, but people are already experimenting with just that concept, though admittedly it isn’t quite at the level I described… yet. But it’s just another game in the FPS category if you believe Mr. Dvorak.

I think he wrote the article just to try and to get some attention and drive up the hit count on his column. He actually makes one good point which is overshadowed by his dramatics. I think he is right that the consumer probably isn’t going to put up with paying $50+ for these types of games for much longer even though games are costing more and more money to produce.

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