2023: No-Hands Gaming, Games That Learn
The problem with the head-mounted handhelds is, of course, you still need some kind of controller to move around and shoot the bad guys.
That' where direct brain control will come into play. This is where it all starts to sound like science fiction, but tell that to these people who are already developing a brain-computer interface they think will help with rehab for the disabled. Hitachi is testing one for everybody else:
You may insist that it's silly to think such world-changing technology would ever be used for something as frivolous as playing video games. But, then you have to tell the people at Emotiv, who have already made a device that can do it.
Obviously that stuff is still in the prototype stage and if you saw somebody doing whatever that guy up there is doing, you'd probably beat the hell out of him (wait, is that Andy Dick?). We figure it'll take between now and 2023 to make this device into something that won't make you look like a total jackass.
As for the games we'll be playing ...
Assuming computer-processing power keeps expanding at the rate it's expected to, by this point a $1,000 computer will exceed the computational ability of the human brain.
Our tiny Bluetooth-sized device should be capable of generating graphics pretty damned close to what Industrial Light and Magic are doing now for big-budget movies. The graphics still won't be true-to-life, in the sense a part of our brain still knew the giant fighting robots in Transformers were fake (Though, maybe in 2023 giant fighting robots will be a common sight in the real world.).
Still, you should have games that can pretty easily render simpler environments, such as a living room realistic enough that if you dozed off with your PlayStation 6 eyepiece in, you'd wake up and not realize you were still in-game. At least not until the demons showed up.
That actually sounds pretty cool now that we mention it. Imagine a haunted-house game with dead people and shit sneaking up on you all the time, and as far as your eyes and ears know, they're really there. We're talking about a game that could trigger a fear response that would physically make you poop your pants.
Again, assuming the dead are not actually walking the earth in 2023, in which case the sight would be common.
But with the kind of processing power at your disposal, you have to think way beyond that. If you take that Spore-like procedural generation this far into the future, you wind up with games that can basically remake themselves on the fly, according to the reactions of the gamer.
Think about games that adjust their difficulty according to your level of skill, or games that change according to your mood. And if you're controlling it with your brain waves, it will know your mood.
What Will Suck About It
These are all still technologies created by human beings, which means that a whole lot of the games will still be terrible. Some of this magical immersive brain-interface technology will be dedicated to making a game version of Shrek 7.
We don't want to come off as cynical here, but those of us who were playing a Sega Genesis back in 1992 dreamed of the kind of consoles we'd have 15 years later. Not many of us were anticipating that some of the most popular titles of the wondrous future would be shitty games sold at Burger King.
Let's not forget the advertisers, either. Think how well they'll be able to target their ads when they know your exact emotional state. The day after your girlfriend dumps you, the porn ads will blanket the landscape. The moment you get hungry ...
2028: Supercomputers Woven Into Your Jockstrap, Games That Do Everything
If they keep bringing out new game machines every five years the way they have been, we'd be on the PlayStation 7 at this point. Though, that's really unlikely, even if Sony is still in business, and mankind has not been wiped out by the giant robots or the zombies.
The processing power and/or miniaturization of this stuff starts to get mind-boggling at this stage. If the "half-the-size-every-two-years" rule somehow held true to this point, you'd be talking about computing power in a package one-thousandth the size of what you're using now. That's laptops embedded in sheets of paper ...
... and processors woven into your clothes ...
The point is that at this stage, the concept of actually owning a console/computer starts to get silly. Once miniaturization reaches this point, the next step is probably distributed computing, where all computers scattered around your house and around the world team up to do, well, whatever you need them to.
Some of you are already doing distributed computing, with the Folding at Home project, where computers all over the world are joining forces to do complex calculations to help solve the mysteries of protein folding and maybe cure diseases like Alzheimer's. PS3 owners are even doing it.
At this point, whatever interface you've got stuck on your head won't need its own processing power. It could just be a tool to tap into the collective power of a vast pool of computers operating 24 hours a day, all over the damned place. All you'll be doing is buying access.
Access to do what, you say? At this point, what we're calling "gaming"--the whole technique of running simulations that engage a human mind--could be used for pretty much anything. Would there even be other forms of entertainment? You could get your movies, TV shows and concerts there.
Hell, business types could even hold virtual meetings there, wearing virtual suits while their real body is sitting at home, lounging in briefs with a bong in their lap. For the kids, plug them into a simulation that teaches them algebra and say goodbye to the classroom forever.
What Will Suck About It
Do the math. If your brain is always wired into that vast computing network, somebody on the other end always knows where you are and what you're doing.
And, what you're thinking.
2033: The Real-Life Matrix, Video Games That Are Way Smarter Than You
According to computer smart guy Raymond Kurzweil, by 2029 the kind of computer power it'll take to equal a human brain will cost about $1. If trends continue as they have been, what we're calling supercomputers could be made as small as a speck of dust. You could paint them on your walls.
Take the whole idea of distributed computing we talked about and multiply it several thousand times over. Computers become both ubiquitous and invisible, embedded in almost every surface you touch, with the whole atmosphere full of the data they're shooting back and forth to each other. More information than your parents absorbed in a lifetime could come firing into your brain in the blink of an eye.
Combine that with patents Sony already has for ways to fire ultrasound pulses into the brain to create real-life sensory experiences, and you've got everything you need for five-senses virtual reality. And, you don't even need the jacks in the back of your skull.
We're assuming some kind of nuclear fusion or some other kind of vast energy source is out there by this point (all this flying data will require unimaginable amounts of electriciy) and that we're not living in mud huts and fighting radioactive mutants for food. But, if we're not, PS8 Home (or whatever they're calling the digital metaverse at that point) should finally exist as a new-and-improved version of reality you can touch and smell--only noticing the transition by the sudden absence of fat.
Imagine it. In your lifetime, a magical world where you can actually meet that Burger King mascot, and smell him and feel his robes. As for the porn, well, is it even porn at that stage? It's pretty much just sex. You have sex with the porn lady and when you roll over, there's the Burger King guy to hand you a Whopper in person.
As for what sort of "games" or other entertainment would be offered there, it's possible that by then the gaming industry would have achieved its final goal: A device that makes you enjoy the experience no matter what they do. It's true that it would require electrodes inserted into the pleasure centers of the brain, but at that stage it would probably be considered cruel to not implant them in every newborn.
Electronic Arts could crank out a Shrek 9 game in a couple of weeks that features nothing more than Shrek standing in your front yard, quietly staring and occasionally farting. The whole time your brain will be telling you it's the most fun you've ever had.
You may be having so much fun in the game realm that you'll never want to leave. And that's OK, because this guy says that just down the road (around 2050) you'll be able to download your mind into the computer. Your body dies, you live on in the virtual world. Forever.
Or, you know, as long as somebody is paying the bill.
What Will Suck About It
At this stage we could very well be getting to the outer edges the long-predicted era when mankind is just an irrelevant blip in a world dominated by computers. If the combined thinking power of the world's computers completely dwarfs the combined minds of all the humans, then at this point the machines will pretty much be making games purely to entertain each other.
Or, possibly mankind will only be allowed to survive for the machines' amusement. Perhaps they'll force us to walk through hallways and shoot each other out of a desire for ironic revenge that we will have accidentally programmed into them somehow.
It's all speculation at this point. Who can predict what will happen on that day when Spore has, generations later, culminated in systems powerful enough to create entire universes and even simulated minds to populate them. You would reach a point where the population of simulated beings in existence dwarfs the real ones.
Even stranger, the simulated people born inside the simulation would have no way of knowing they were in a simulation. You may have heard that guy in The New York Times say that mathematically we are almost certainly living in one of those simulations now.
But anyway, Spore looks pretty cool and we're looking forward to it.