I spend a lot of my time thinking about the future of gaming. I don't mean hot new genres or transitory design trends. I'm talking waaaaay off in the future, when games break out into our real lives. It is going to happen. In some ways it is already happening. Location-based mobile games such as Botfighters and Undercover allow players to track each other using the GPS functionality of all mobile handsets.
Then there's augmented reality, in which game graphics are projected on to a translucent screen (usually a head-mounted display unit) then viewed over a real-world location so that it appears the virtual action is taking place in the everyday world. Projects such as ARQuake by the Wearable Computer Lab (http://wearables.unisa.edu.au/) and the University of Singapore's Human PacMan game are intriguing examples.
But these are mere adolescent fumblings. Something bigger is on the way. The Information Commissioner's report, A Surveillance Society, last week looked at how most people have simply accepted CCTV cameras and other surveillance technologies: many of us are viewed more than 300 times a day. In fact, not only do we accept CCTV, we embrace it. Several tech companies now offer home surveillance packages so we can set up cameras at home and then view the video feed on our mobile phones or laptops via the internet.
Surveillance culture is interactive. It is a game. Indeed, there's an intriguing downloadable videogame named Vigilance 1.0 (www.martinlechevallier.net/english/A_vigilance.html) which gives you control of a bank of CCTVs trained on a small town. The player's role is to watch out for and report crimes, and while the point is to analyse the fallibility of the viewer and the subjective nature of viewing "crime", the experience is weirdly, undeniably compelling. It is only a matter of time before someone develops a game using the thousands of real CCTV feeds accessible via the internet.
Meanwhile, in Japan, game developer Bandai has manufactured NetTransor, a robot that can be controlled remotely via Wi-Fi. It features a webcam so you can watch where it's going. It is unutterably cool.
Robotic toys are an emerging market, the closest competitor to games for the key demographic of young males. From Sony's Aibo dog to the Roboraptor dinosaur, they are becoming more intelligent and interactive - more game-like.
When surveillance and robotics collide, you pretty much have the future of gaming - a hyper-reality where android beings are sent out into the real world, viewed and controlled remotely, interacting with each other and us. The Sims, but real. It's going to happen.
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