Video games have emerged as a powerful tool for our future. It’s advancement through entertainment and technology has propelled the interests of society, establishing that everyone plays games in one way or another. People are constantly glued to their phones, TVs, and computers. It has even become a fear to researchers that technology has ruined the human condition. But many don’t realize what is on the screen, or better yet, what can be on the screens. Technology has so far advanced to the point that it is the major form of communication. But where does it go from here? With the ever-growing advancements in technology and recent revisited ideas of virtual reality, I believe gaming in the next 21 years will feature a lot of virtual reality. Games will become more mentally and physically entertaining. Virtual reality was introduced years ago, but with recent advancements in technology, it is finally possible to do VR right—or at least improve upon it. Games have been something for many an escape from reality, to tell a story, or compete with people. Games have become more and more compelling in the aspect of stories. Because of that, games have become more like an interactive movie. With VR, games are able to submerse a player into the world it projects. The suspension of disbelief will be uncanny in the future. VR will be more accessible if not at home then at what could be a VR theatre. With VR improvements being just around the corner, the possibilities are becoming endless. These improvements upon recycled ideas is what Pierre Lévy calls virtualization and actualization. Throughout history, people have virtualized and actualized to improve upon video games and VR. The future of gaming will involve a lot of our senses, include mental and physical play, and will incorporate more co-op and social games in virtual reality.
The idea of virtual reality can date back as far as 1860s. Back then technology was not relevant. People considered stage and images as virtual reality. But around 1920, the earliest simulation devices appeared; Edwin Link developed flight simulations for pilots. Then Morton Heilig devised a sensation simulator called the Sensorama. Finally, Ivan Sutherland developed the first head mounted virtual reality device in 1968. Sutherland improved upon a head mount developed by Philco Corporations that allowed helicopter pilots to see their surroundings while flying at night. Sutherland created what was called the Ultimate Display. This device allowed the user to see virtual worlds. From this advancement, more devices and virtual maps were created for a virtual reality. Each advancement, whether through technology or idea, is what Pierre Lévy calls virtualization—an idea highlighted as virtual as potential.
Marie-Laure Ryan examines two theories of the virtual in her chapter “The Two (and Thousand) Faces of the Virtual.” She respectively examines Jean Baudrillard and Pierre Lévy’s arguments about the virtual. While Baudrillard views the virtual as a fake, Pierre Lévy views the virtual as potential. Pierre Lévy reflects upon Baudrillard’s ideas and argues that the virtual has potential to be good, to advance mankind. He argues that the virtual can be productive in a way where ideas are are able to transcend their form from virtual to actual. Rather than a loss of one or the other, all elements take part in the solution. The virtual and actual begin to compliment one another. Like the mind, the virtual is capable of producing possibilities, “In our dealing with the virtual, we are doing what mankind has always done, only more powerfully, consciously, and systematically.” This is to say that the virtual helps mankind advance its way of thinking. People begin to think outside of the box and and produce ideas that were once deemed unfathomable. However, in order to progress from virtual to actual, the form must go through a transformation; the transformation must involve change, new qualities. This process is called actualization. Actualization is the conception of creativity. Where actualization develops a solution to a problem, Lévy has another term that revisits the solution: virtualization. Virtualization revisits the problem in order to produce a better or more efficient solution.
Virtualization is another way of advancing technology for the better. When the film WarGames was in productions, no one had any idea what the NORAD command center looked like. None of the producers were allowed in the actual command center. The actual NORAD command center was so confidential that the producers of the film had to visualize how the room might have looked like. In the DVD commentary for WarGames, director John Badham notes that he later found out that the actual NORAD command center wasn’t as elaborate as the one in the film. The images in the film even looked better, more advanced, than the actual room. Taking ideas from the film, others now envision a war room or command center to be high tech and elaborate in both movies and texts. This may have even sparked ideas for actual war rooms and command centers all across the globe. Similar to the history of VR, this idea of virtualization is exactly what developers are now doing with VR. Because of recent advancements in technology, developers are able to revisit the ideas from when Virtual Reality was first produced and advance upon them, make them more efficient. By doing so, they are able to better the experience of VR and further suspend our disbelief.
What people envisioned games to be like 21 years ago is much different from what it is today. But, then again, they were on the right track. In Computer Gaming World’s 1992 January issue, Dr. Diana Gagnon agreed that before VR enters our homes, it will first be “encountered via Location-Based Entertainment (LBE) experiences located in public places.” VR booths or systems were seen around arcades. Then, eventually, they were brought home as the headsets. The images were still 2D, but the immersion at the time was still unfathomable to people. Only until they experienced it did they realize its potential. Today, VR is capable of projecting 3D images to the viewer. When the Occulus was introduced, many were excited for the return of VR. There seemed to be a break in gaming where VR was not as prominent as it was around the late 1980s and early 1990s. Still, the return of VR sparked a lot of commotion. The ideas of mass worlds in VR and the creation of haptic gloves or controllers began to surface. But a lot of these ideas are iterations of former developments; this is because the technology used today is far more advanced than that 21 years ago. Even today, the idea of having LBE experiences is revisited. The Void is developing an LBE type of experience where people can go witness infinite dimensions within the VR. Such immersiveness is not possible within our homes today, but we cannot write out the possibilities. The cycle that Lévy expresses through actualization and virtualization is relevant in gaming advancements. This cycle is what will produce many immersive experiences in the years to come.
When we view the virtual as potential, it is not limited to ideas from games. We can explore ideas and turn them into possibilities from movies and shows as well. If The Matrix made it possible for entertainment to explore the art styles of bullet time, then shows like Star Trek can present the Holodeck as a possibility in the future. With what technology we have today, we are able to trick the mind to view something like The Void as a modern day Holodeck. In the future, we may be able to generate matter within a Holodeck type of space to create maps and adventures that players can travel through. We are only knocking on the door of VRs capabilities at the moment. But from here, we can virtualize and actualize ideas to improve upon video games. By exploring these ideas virtually in film, books, and games, technology can push the limits and actualize these concepts like the Holodeck. We can one day have a Holodeck that lets us explore time periods and other regions of the earth or universe without having to travel very far. This feat would help us advance playing and learning outcomes. A Holodeck would be a wonderful hands-on experience for many. By taking the idea of a Holodeck from Star Trek, the future is capable of actualizing the idea and producing it through virtualization.
When possibilities of gaming become so hands-on like the Holodeck, we can begin to explore other ideas of entertainment. Humans have been finding new ways to tell stories from the beginning of time. We have all experienced stories as children from storybooks. Movies have been a major part of story telling in our day and age. Even video games are loved for their unique storytelling capabilities. With all of this in mind, the future could take the idea of VR and the Holodeck and produce a fully interactive movie, where the player is a part of the set and crew. Not only would you view the stories, you would be able to interact with it, to play a role in it. This combination of video games and movies would change entertainment in a new way. If it is successful, then games would evolve into a highly interactive simulation.
Another idea that could be revisited in the future is a psychological immersion into video games. When the Playstation 2 began to air its commercials to promote the gaming system, Sony explored the ideas of what Playstation 9 would be like. In the ad, the console appeared as a sphere. Once opened, spore-like chemicals would travel to your brain to take over your senses. The player then began to see themselves in new worlds as a fully life-like experience. If technology were to advance this far, anything would be possible in terms of games and life experiences. Researchers could play with this idea that Sony introduced and develop something extraordinary. Given that this would be in the future—for we are nowhere near to this possibility in our time—we make dreams come true for those who envisioned uncanny things like to be able to fly or explore space or even to live in the fantasy world. By playing with the brain, these games would even be playable for many who have physical limitations.
But finally, what I could hope for in our games in the future is the ability to play alongside others to build new relationships. Because we are able to create anything playable and fun for the future generations, it would be fantastic to see a world where games bring people together, to explore emotions like empathy, and to work together towards a common goal. These teachings not only stays in the game, but can also be applied to everyday life. Games can very much be cathartic. This is exactly why games can be such a powerful tool and asset to our future. Twenty-one years ago, games were considered nerdy and people were bullied for being nerdy. Today, technology has become such an important role in our lives that mostly everyone is looking for the new gadgets and games. The nerds have definitely won. Now it is just a matter of how we progress with technology to leave behind our generations’ history.
Even though technology amplifies our experience, it can also amputate it. We may end up losing ourselves in technology one day, but it is also possible to use technology to help those around us. Even though we can look to the future of gaming and predict what it would be like, it is also up to us to develop games and experiences that encompass all these things: it can be fun, it can be interactive with you and those around you, it can push our limits, and it can explore emotions that we as a society seemed to have lost. The future is definitely bright with games, but where it leads us is up to the developers.