Media and Communications: The Future of Gaming


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Media and Communications: The Future of Gaming

  1. 1. Media Futures and New Technologies Myst & Doom to Virtual Reality: New Media and the Future of the Gaming IndustryTable of ContentsIntroduction:.........................................................................................................................................1Key issues:............................................................................................................................................2 An Oligopoly Shattered: New Media and its Consequences on the Structure of the Gaming Industry.......................................................................................................................................2 Doom and the development of the Prosumer within the early Game Space.....................2 An Oligopoly Continues: Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft dominate the Gaming Market. 2 Gaming Online; The Future of the Industry?....................................................................3 Convergence within the Gaming Industry:........................................................................3 From 2D to 3D and Beyond: The Changing Aesthetics of Game Space....................................4 A Society Transformed?..............................................................................................................5 “Youre Pulling the Trigger”: Violence and Video Games.................................................5 Future Trends in Game Content: Computer Games as Cultural Expression.....................6Conclusion:...........................................................................................................................................7Bibliography:........................................................................................................................................7Introduction:New media; an extension of “general human capacity” (McLuhan in Lister et al, 2003) has alteredall facets of modern society. The internet, convergence, and the “Networked Society” has altered the structure andconsumer markets of the cultural industries globally, forcing the abandonment of traditionalbusiness models and practices. The gaming industry has not been immune from global trends; new media providing acatalyst for rapid expansion of the industry; with the game genre infiltrating emerging platformssuch as the internet, social media websites, and the mobile phone. New media has had more profound impact on the nature of game content; with technologicaladvancements encouraging the development of an increasingly realistic game space. Advancementsin aesthetics, have transformed the gaming experience – “distant and abstract” interaction with thescreen transformed into embodied “play” within a virtual environment indistinguishable fromreality.Thursday, November 10, 2011
  2. 2. Key issues:An Oligopoly Shattered: New Media and its Consequences on theStructure of the Gaming IndustryDoom and the development of the Prosumer within the early GameSpaceCollaborative authorship has defined the development of great projects throughout history(Manovich, 2002), and the 1993 video game “Doom” proving no exception to this trend. Developedby id software1, Doom was to “transcended the usual relationships between producers andconsumers” (Manovich, 1998) by allowing players to actively contribute to the content of thegame2. Conforming to “hacker tradition” (Lister et al, 2003), distributed solely as shareware, Doompresented a momentous shift away from traditional forms of game development and distribution. The adoption of the gaming sphere to new media forms, specifically the internet, resulted intraditional conceptions of “gamer” and “producer” being altered. In many ways, Doom “pioneeredmultiplayer gaming over networks, online distribution and an open architecture that promoted usermodifications” (Grossman et al, 2004), a trend which continues into the present (Ip, 2008). Thus, asthe digital age dawned, the focus of the gaming industry was altered; users becoming increasinglyinfluential in the development of game content.An Oligopoly Continues: Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft dominate theGaming MarketDespite the convergence phenomenon associated with digitalised media having profound impactson the gaming industry; three main companies, Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft continue to dominatethe production of software and consoles for domestic use. Within the Australian context, 2011figures herald Nintendo as the industry leader3, with 22% market share (Shulman, 2011). Major companies have dominated the industry since its inception in the 1970 (Ip, 2008), anddespite rapid industry growth4, few independent software or console manufacturers enter the globalmarket annually5. The gaming industry; once defined by small firms like id software, has beentransformed; the contemporary industry dominated by three major firms, and their respectiveproduct, the XBox, Playstation and Wii. Despite dystopian visions of the continued commercial dominance of these firms in the ageof digitalisation – “the implication of the oligopolistic nature within the game industry is expectedto deepen in the advent of digital convergence” (Ip, 2008) – independent game developmentcompanies continue to exist; approximately 50 companies existing in contemporary Australia(GDAA, 2011).1 A small Texas based video game development company2 When id software released the original Doom, they also made descriptions of the game file formates and game editor available to players (Manovich, 2002)3 A position Craig Shulman attributes to the introduction of the Wii and the altering demographic of the industry; 45% of gamers now believed to be female (Shulman, 2011)4 2011 figures from IbisWorld suggesting that the Australian gaming industry had grown almost 10% annually between 2007 and 2012, with further increases in growth projected (Shulman, 2011)5 “The cost of design and manufacture alone are prohibitive, making the entry of a company without substantial experience in electronics and gaming unlikely” (Shulman, 2011)Thursday, November 10, 2011
  3. 3. The development of new media technologies has altered the commercial environment;encouraging the popularisation of independent games such as “Braid”; a 2008 game developed byJonathon Blow with a budget of US$200,000 (Golding, 2011). Thus although the vast majority ofthe profits associated with the industry remain in the hands of a few (Shulman, 2011), a shifttowards independent production, promotion and distribution of games remains a future prospect.Gaming Online; The Future of the Industry?The online game space is rapidly expanding; with 60 million users of online games recorded in2008 (Roquilly, 2011). “Gamers are always the first adopters of the latest technology” (Michael A.Dennis, professor of science and technology studies at Cornell University in Peters, 2003), thus it isunsurprising that with the development of new media gaming has extended beyond the confines ofthe domestic sphere. The intense expansion of the industry both internationally – the most popular MMORPG 6,World of Warcraft generating a revenue of 1 billion dollars in 2006, and 1.5 billion dollars in 2008(Roquilly, 2011) – and domestically7 is suggestive of a growing trend within the online sphere;“play” online. Given the uncanny ability of online gaming to satisfy desires for a social experiencewithin a virtual environment (Kolo et al, 2004), whilst simultaneously providing an outlet forcreative processes – encouraging the production of fandom content (Lemke in Sherlock, 2009) andan avatar – the online gaming experience proves more satisfying than any other gaming experiencewhich has existed previously. Thus as four out of five internet users become members of a virtual world by 2012(Roquilly, 2011), the gaming industry will be transformed; traditional dependence on the consolereplaced with a dependence on online software.Convergence within the Gaming Industry:Traditional conceptions of what were once separate mediums – the game, film, television – havebecome increasingly blurred with the development of new media. The convergence phenomenon,described by Henry Jenkins as a process altering “the relationship between existing technologies,industries, markets, genres and audiences” (Jenkins, 2006), has resulted in the metamorphosis ofthe gaming industry; the gaming genre converged with more traditional media genres such as film,advertising and music. Transmedia storytelling (Jenkins, 2009) is becoming the norm within the film and gamingindustries; with such texts increasingly developed “side by side” to allow their respective releases tobe “more coordinated” (Jenkins, 2009). The legitimate narrative of film is enriched within the gamespace; the interaction between the player, environment, and characters providing opportunity forfurther development of the existing narrative (Wallin, 2007), a conceptual framework supported byHenry Jenkins: “Games...may more fully realise the spatiality of these stories, giving a much more immersive and compelling representation of their narrative worlds” (Jenkins, 2004) The development of the internet, specifically Web 2.0, has altered the purpose of games; thefunction of the game transformed from entertainment and “play” to encouraging “junk6 “Massively multiplayer online roleplaying games”7 “The online gaming segment of the [gaming] industry [in Australia is] … worth about $69 million in subscriptions and up-front software purchases alone; this is up from zero revenue in 2002” (Shulman, 2011)Thursday, November 10, 2011
  4. 4. consumerism” (Lister et al, 2003). In the modern commercial environment, virtual reality games oralternative reality games are often transformed into forms of viral marketing; prominent examplesof which include The Beast8 and I Love Bees9 (Szulborski, 2005). Within the confines of virtualreality the imperatives of business and those of the gaming community are interchangeable;engagement with a consumer product synonymous with immersion in the game space. As the gaming industry continues to adapt to an increasingly mutable media environment,the priorities of the industry are likely to transform. As was the case with one of the most successfulgames in history, Pokemon; consumption of game content will not be limited solely to game play. Inthe future games will expand into franchises: “A self-referential world in which every product – every trading card, computer game, movie, cartoon and hamburger box – serves as propaganda for all the others” (Burkeman in Lister et al, 2003)The convergence phenomenon will alter all facets of the gaming industry; expanding its reach andaltering its content.From 2D to 3D and Beyond: The Changing Aesthetics of Game SpaceAn immersive experience within the game space is the product of realist aesthetics and gamerempowerment (Jenkins, 2007), the industries fixation on photorealism and incessant use of thepoint-of-view visual perspective resulting in an almost tangible experience of game space (Poster,2007) Market pressure for a more realistic gaming experience has defined the gaming industrysince its inception (Wolf, 2003). Early games were presented as a representation of an alreadyexisting reality – with Nolan Bushnells1972 game, Pong labelled a virtual version of a game ofping-pong (Wolf, 2003). Mark J. P. Wolf ascribes significance to this industry trend, suggesting thatthe initial unwillingness of game consumers to adapt to the complexities associated with theemerging medium10 resulted in an industry unwillingness to incorporate any form of abstraction intogame content (Wolf, 2003). The trend towards realism within the game space continued with the release of Doom andMyst in 1993. The “detached, abstract sort of fun” (John Carmack in Grossman et al, 2004) that haddefined the video game experience to date was to be transformed with the introduction of 3D; asPaul Keegan was to report in the Guardian: “Youre not just watching a movie, youre in the movie... youre actually pulling the trigger” (Keegan, 2000 in Lister et al, 2003)With the introduction of 3D animation the computer was transformed, becoming“a revolutionarytool: a means of self-empowerment and fantasy fulfilment” (Kushner, 2003). Beyond the potential implications of Doom regarding behaviour (which will be discussed inlatter sections of this report), the game was to alter the narrative architecture of the game space; thespatial journey of the character intrinsically linked to the games overarching narrative (Manovich,8 A virtual reality game involving some 100,000 people that was to accompany the release of Steven Spielbergs 2001 film, “A.I. Artificial Intelligence”9 Used to market the hugely anticipated release of Halo 210 The first arcade video game, Computer Space, developed by Nonan Bushnell failed to be a commercial success because the players found the controls difficult to use and the graphic representations overwhelmingThursday, November 10, 2011
  5. 5. 1998). Thus with the introduction of Doom, the narrative aspiration of the contemporary videogame became the exploration of 3D game space, illuminating the similarities that exist between thegame and more traditional media forms (Manovich, 1998); specifically the quest genre of ancientliterature (Hughes, 2010). The construction of the modern gaming narrative is suggestive of whatMarshall McLuhan was to term “remediation” (McLuhan, 1968); the “electronic culture” of thegaming industry resembling more traditional media forms, an attempt to “rival or refashion” (Bolteret al, 1999) the cinematic experience. Although labelled “new media”, the gaming genre maintains similarities to those mediumstermed “old media”. Consumers now engage with gaming content in a manner that definedconsumer interaction with traditional media forms (Newman, 2002), inherently limiting theindustries potential to provide “revolutionary” content as a realist game space is now the industrystandard (Wolf, 2003). Thus in future the gaming industry will resemble the industry of the presentwith improved graphics. As Lev Manovich suggests, the video game “has not reached its Renaissance stage yet [asspace is not conceived of in its] totality” (Manovich, 1998). As the development of game aestheticscontinues, the distinction between reality and the game space will be diminished.A Society Transformed?“Youre Pulling the Trigger”: Violence and Video GamesPublic insecurities have surrounded the development of video games as a popular medium, aphenomenon arising from wider anxieties concerning the status of childhood within contemporarysocieties (Beavis, 1998). Violence has been an element of video game genre since the mediums inception 11. Howeverit was the 1993 release of “Doom” was to transpose the apparent link between violence and thevideo game onto public psyche; a popular perception which was to be reinforced by the massacre atColumbine High School in 1999 (Dapin, 2007) As well as altering public perception of “gaming culture” – especially within developed,Western nations (Squire, 2002) – Doom irreversibly altered the content of the contemporary videogame: “In their bloody excess, programs like “Doom” and “Quake” reinvented computer gaming and gave birth to a generation of gamers who lived by the mantra that, when it came to guns, guts, and demons, more was definitely better” (Peters, 2003)Following the release of Doom, first-person shooter games became the norm within the gamingsphere, a trend which continues to the present12. Within the academic sphere, research into potential links between violent video games andviolent behaviour have been fragmented; with fundamentally flawed research methodologies andmisconceptions of the genre more generally13 resulting in inconsistent results and conclusions:11 Ronald Regan employing the use of games in the early 1980s to create “a generation of highly skilled cold war warriors” (Squire, 2002)12 Titles such as Doom III and Halo 2 continuing to dominate both the international and Australian game market (ABC News, 2004)13 Kurt Squire suggests that a fundamental flaw of academic research on gaming to date has been the lack of observation of gamers “playing” as they would in everyday life: “Whats missing from contemporary debate onThursday, November 10, 2011
  6. 6. “Studies generally lack any real-world evidence linking game-playing to acts of violence; they ignore broad trends that that show inverse correlations between game- playing and violent behaviour; finally, they make wild logical leaps in linking very constrained behaviours in laboratories to violent acts where people really get hurt.” (Squire, 2002)Thus although relative consensus exists within the academic community that video games rarelyencourage violent behaviour14, the public remains uncomfortable with the medium as a whole. The“immersive” nature of the medium, gamers empowered role within the narrative space (Calleja,2007), and the “meaningless violence” (Jenkins, 2007) intrinsically associated with the mediumsituated within a broader cultural narrative of the potential threats to youth culture associated withdigitalisation and new media forms (Beavis, 1998). The violent content of most games has resulted in a conception that the medium residesoutside the realm of popular culture, a tendency limiting the application of conclusions regardinggame culture to society itself. As Henry Jenkins records, the implications of gaming violenceremain misunderstood and under researched: “Rather than bemoaning meaningless violence, we should explore ways that games could not simply stage or simulate violence but offer us new ways to understand the place of violence within our culture” (Jenkins, 2007) As Kurt Squire records, the impact of video games on contemporary Western societies hasbeen overstated, epitomised by the decreasing levels of crime throughout much of the industrialisedworld (Squire, 2002). Public insecurities accompany the development of all new media forms –especially those media forms that reinvigorate visual culture – the traditional media forms ofcinema and television associated with anti-social behaviours when first developed (Squire, 2002).Momentous technological change is intrinsically linked to an alteration of cultural norms; the resultof which is a public fearful of the potentials associated with new media forms, a tendency wellexemplified by the unfounded public anxieties which surround the video game.Future Trends in Game Content: Computer Games as CulturalExpressionThe concept of realism infiltrates the gaming medium; the ability of games to mirror realityassumed pivotal to a pleasurable and immersive gaming experience (Wood et al, 2004). Thus, future gaming development will “bring an added measure of reality to the screen”(Vittoria De Sica in Galloway, 2004), the intention of post-modern games being to mirror reality inits entirety. The result of which is the development of “Video games of the Oppressed”; games suchas “Special Force”15 and “Under Ash”16 (Galloway, 2004). With a focus on the “everyday strugglesof the downtrodden” (Galloway, 2004), the game graphics and narrative are converted into a tellingrepresentation of the injustices that define contemporary societies. gaming and culture is any naturalistic study of what game-playing experiences are like, how gaming fits into peoples lives, and the kinds of practices people are engaged in while gaming” (Squire, 2002)14 The opinions of Dr. Ian Lewis typical of the majority opinion within the academic sphere: “ games cant be taken in isolation here. If you look at the vast majority of people that play games, be they adults or children, they will suffer no ill effects from playing games at all but people with other problems can be susceptible” (ABC News, 2010)15 Released by Lebanese organisation Hizbullah in 200316 Released by Syrian game publisher Dar Al-FikrThursday, November 10, 2011
  7. 7. As new media transforms the global cultural and political landscape through thepopularisation of the internet, video games as a medium are also being transformed. Although thenavigation of virtual space remains crucial to the cyberdrama genre (Murray, 2004), theincorporation of “realism” into the game space presents a paradigmatic shift within the industry; thepurpose of gaming extended beyond “play” (Galloway, 2004). However within the sphere of academia, prevailing opinion asserts that in future recreationalgaming will be replaced with educational gaming 17. Visual culture has been associated withknowledge production throughout history (Riha, 2011), thus the gaming genres requirement thatplayers actively engage with the virtual space (Flynn, 2004) is assumed valuable to the learningprocess. The conception of game space as knowledge space arises from popular psychologys fixationon the consequences of new media on the thought processes of the individual. Epitomised by MarcPrenskys “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”, the discipline emphasises that exposure to newmedia (specifically devises such as mobile phones and the internet) resultes in “physical” changesto the brain (Prensky, 2001): “Todays students think and process information fundametally differently from their predecessors” (Prensky, 2001)As more traditional forms of education are inherently unable to provide this new generation of“digital natives” with the content demanded (Prensky, 2001); the development of educational gamesbecomes imperative. The result of which is the development of projects such as “The Education Arcade”; an MITinitiative that aims to create games which “promote learning through authentic and engagaingplay” (Jhaas, 2008), and the use of existing games such as “Civilisation” and “SimCity” within theteaching environment (Squire, 2002).Conclusion:Traditionally conceived of as a juvenile misogynistic medium; the video game has beenrevolutionised by the development of new media. The medium continues to expand rapidly;testimony to the continued significance of “play” within modern societies.Bibliography:  ABC News (July 12, 2004) “Games industry awaits key releases” ABC News. Source:  ABC News (July 29, 2010) “Violent video games not all bad”, ABC News. Source:  Adner, R. (2002) “The Changing Basis of Competition in the Video Game Console Industry”. Source: %20May/ChangingCompetition.pdf  Beavis, C. (1998) “Computer Games: Youth culture, resistant readers and computer games”, Research in Eduction: Does it Count. Deakin University Publications. Source: A concept termed “edutainment” within the academic sphereThursday, November 10, 2011
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