The Future of Gaming
Future games will become the ultimate playground for our minds
In 1977 when famed mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot uttered the phrase, “as a language, mathematics may be used not only to inform but also to seduce,” little did he know that his brainchild, fractal geometry, would become seductive to the point of being addictive.
Over the past decade, fractal geometry, the science that reduces the patterns found in nature to mathematical formulas and also enables us to create artificial forms of nature using the same math, has become the numerical engine driving much of the gaming industry, and more specifically, the hottest technique in gaming – procedural generation. Placing key creative elements in the hands of the player, procedural generation means the game doesn’t store millions of characters and background images, just the methods by which they can be built, leaving the gamers free to focus on creating the worlds in which their next adventures occur.
Where brilliant thinkers like da Vinci, H. G. Wells, and Mandelbrot inspired much of the world around us today, the world of tomorrow, the very world where we will be spending the later years of our lives, is now being imagined inside the young minds of today’s gamers as they learn to harness the awesome power hiding in each gamer’s toolbox.
SimCity founder Will Wright
When SimCity founder Will Wright introduced his latest project, Spore, demonstrating the next generation organic content builder at the TED conference in 2007, he not only turned heads, but radically shifted the thinking of the entire gaming industry. Whereas procedural generation had been used on a smaller scale in earlier games like kkrieger, Soldier of Fortune, and Doom 3, Spore goes far beyond the in-world limits of most virtual worlds and allows users to build and experiment with the entire range of existence, from ameba-like creatures on one end, to whole new galaxies on the other.
The playful creatures and worlds being created inside Spore offer much more than a sandbox for the creative mind. They become a working laboratory for testing ideas and strategy; They allow escape from a world where players have far less control, and entry into a world where players harness god-like powers and have unlimited control as the boundaries between the real world and the virtual world begin to blur along as we take a glimpse at what will become tomorrow’s extreme gaming experiences.
Game designer, Jane McGonigal
Jane McGonigal, a game designer that MIT Technology Review named as one of the top 35 innovators changing the world, and an expert at blurring traditional boundaries, focuses on how the games we play can change the way we experience the real world. One of her best known projects is World Without Oil (2007), a massively collaborative simulation of the first 32 weeks of a global oil crisis that first establishes a citizen “nerve center” to track events and share solutions. While there are distinct differences between environments we play with and ones we physically experience, the game gives participants some idea of how people will react, and also go a long ways to sensitizing people to specific issues. Her motto gets to the heart of the matter: “Play it before you live it!”
Another McGonigal game, Cruel 2 B Kind (2006), is a real-world assassination game that replaced weapons with random acts of kindness, and at the same time replaces game interfaces with revolutionizing new notions of what a game can be.
The Nintendo Wii, with its unusual interface devices for bowling, archery, and Guitar Hero, will soon look like ancient pale in comparison to the unusual ways we will be connecting in the virtual and not-so-virtual worlds of the future.
At WIRED Magazine’s 2007 NextFest, special headbands measuring brainwaves served at the controllers for a game called “Brain Ball.” “Brain Ball” is a relaxation game where two players face off to try to move a small white ball across the table, with the ball moving towards the player with the most relaxed brain waves.
Emotiv’s mind-control headset
But it looks like brain-controllers are going mainstream. Emotiv, a company based in San Francisco, says its mind-control headsets will be on shelves later this year, along with a host of novel “biofeedback” games developed by its partners.
Other companies – including EmSense in Monterey, California; NeuroSky in San Jose, California; and Hitachi in Tokyo – are also developing technology to detect players´ brainwaves and use them in next-gen video games.
Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s new Smart Goggles
Japanese inventor Yasuo Kuniyoshi recently unveiled his invention, Smart Goggles, a pair of glasses designed to capture and record everything a person sees in a day. So, a person who loses their keys can simply have a computer scan through files until it finds where they left their keys. More impressive though is the notion that this device can effectively index the world around us, in a process similar to spidering the web, giving rise to search engines for the physical world.
Procedural generation in some games will take a back seat to auto-generated content created through Smart Goggles. More likely, the two will work side by side building funky McGonigal-imagined environments that are half-real, half-imagined, and simultaneously half auto-generated, and half procedurally generated.
Advancing this notion even further, consider a game designed around the world we live in, only with special visual overlays that make people around us unwitting players, pawns if you will, that we attempt to influence inside our next semi-real adventure. A real-life chess match without the game board. Brain-ball on steroids, created with next-gen fractal geometry, even more seductive and even more addictive.
For now, the only way to predict the future of gaming is to predict that all predictions will be wrong. So relax, everything I just told you is wrong. But then again, you may just be a pawn in my latest game, and I’m just trying to manipulate your thinking.
The Future of Gaming
I was thoroughly intrigued when I found out the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado was offering a degree in asteroid mining.
Yes, the idea of extracting water, oxygen, minerals, and metals from an asteroid sounds like science fiction to most people, but it’s not that far away. In fact, Colorado School of Mines’ newly launched “Space Resources” program will help people get in on the ground floor.
After thinking about the proactive nature of this approach, it became abundantly clear how backward thinking most colleges have become.
When colleges decide on a new degree program, they must first recruit instructors, create a new curriculum, and attract students. As a result, the talent churned out of these newly minted programs is the product of a 6-7 year pipeline.
For this reason, anticipatory-thinking institutions really need to be setting their sights on what business and industries will need 7-10 years from now.
The Risk-Averse Nature of Education
When Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen released his best-selling book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, his core message that disruptive change is the path to success, was only partially embraced by higher education.
While many were experimenting with MOOCs and smart whiteboards, changes in the subject matter of their courses still evolved at the traditional pace of discovery.
This is not to say colleges are not innovative. Rather, the demands of today’s emerging tech environment are forcing business and industries to shift into an entirely new gear. And that most definitely includes our academic institutions.
From a management perspective, it’s far easier to oversee a contained system where all variables are constrained. But during times of change, we tend to give far more power to the “unleashers,” who are determined to test the status quo and release ideas and trial balloons to see what works.
For this reason, managers and creatives often find themselves on opposing sides, and the winners of these warring factions often determine what we as consumers see as the resulting ripples of change.
Offering Pilot Programs
When Facebook bought Oculus Rift in March 2014 for $2 billion, the job boards went crazy, as there was an instant uptick in the demand for VR designers, engineers, and experience creators. But no one was teaching VR, and certainly not the Oculus Rift version of it.
Colleges have a long history of being blindsided by new technologies:
- When eBay launched, no one was teaching ecommerce strategies
- When Myspace launched, no one was teaching social networking
- When Google launched, no one was teaching online search engine strategies
- When Uber launched, no one was teaching sharing economy business models
- When Apple first opened their App Store, no one was teaching smart phone app design
- When Amazon first allowed online storefronts, no one was teaching the Amazon business model
- When YouTube first offered ways to monetize videos, no one was teaching it
Since most academic institutions are only willing to put their name on programs with long-term viability, the endorsement of half-baked agendas does not come easy. However, that is exactly what needs to be done.
Colleges can no longer afford to remain comfortably behind the curve.
52 Future College Degrees
As a way of priming your thinking on this matter, here are 52 future degrees that forward-thinking colleges could start offering today:
- Space Exploration – space tourism planning and management
- Space Exploration – planetary colony design and operation
- Space Exploration – next generation space infrastructure
- Space Exploration – advanced cosmology and non-earth human habitats
- Bioengineering with CRISPR – policy and procedural strategies
- Bioengineering with CRISPR – advanced genetic engineering systems
- Bioengineering with CRISPR – operational implementations and system engineering
- Bioengineering with CRISPR – ethical regulation and oversight
- Smart City – autonomous traffic integration
- Smart City – mixed reality modeling
- Smart City – autonomous construction integration
- Smart City – next generation municipal planning and strategy
- Autonomous Agriculture – robotic systems
- Autonomous Agriculture – drone systems
- Autonomous Agriculture – supply chain management
- Autonomous Agriculture – systems theory and integration
- Swarmbot – design, theory, and management
- Swarmbot – system engineering and oversight
- Swarmbot – municipal system design
- Swarmbot – law enforcement and advanced criminology systems
- Cryptocurrency – digital coin economics
- Cryptocurrency – crypto-banking system design
- Cryptocurrency – regulatory systems and oversight
- Cryptocurrency – forensic accounting strategies
- Blockchain – design, systems, and applications
- Blockchain – blockchain for biological systems
- Blockchain – large-scale integration structures
- Blockchain – municipal system design strategies
- Global Systems – system planning, architecture, and design
- Global Systems – large-scale integration strategies
- Global Systems – operational systems checks and balance
- Global Systems – governmental systems in a borderless digital world
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicle - drone film making
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – command center operations
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – municipal modeling and planning systems
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – emergency response systems
- Mixed Reality - experiential retail
- Mixed Reality – three-dimensional storytelling
- Mixed Reality – game design
- Mixed Reality – therapeutic systems and design
- Advanced Reproductive Systems – designer baby strategies, planning, and ethics
- Advanced Reproductive Systems – surrogate parenting policy and approaches
- Advanced Reproductive Systems – organic nano structures
- Advanced Reproductive Systems – clone engineering and advanced processes
- Artificial Intelligence – data management in an AI environment
- Artificial Intelligence – advanced human-AI integration
- Artificial Intelligence – streaming AI data services
- Artificial Intelligence – advanced marketing with AI
- Quantum Computing – data strategies in a quantum-connected world
- Quantum Computing – quantum-level encryption and security
- Quantum Computing – quantum computing implementation strategies
- Quantum Computing – AI-quantum system integration
More so than any time in history, we have a clear view of next generation technologies. Naturally, we’re still a long way from 100% clarity, but for most of the technologies listed above, the shifting tectonic plates of change can be felt around the world.
Without taking decisive action, colleges run the risk of being circumvented by new types of training systems that can meet market demands in a fraction of the time it takes traditional academia to react.
The ideas I’ve listed are a tiny fraction of what’s possible when it comes to emerging tech degrees. Should colleges stick their neck out like Colorado School of Mines and offer degrees that may not be immediately useful? Adding to that question, how many college degrees are immediately useful today?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.