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The Far Future of Games

This topic is out there, I admit, but perhaps you have some ideas.

What would a game look like that could be created today that would also be played in 100 years or 1,000 years. As a side issue, I wonder if there's any difference in a game that would last 100 as opposed to 1,000 years.

It takes an awful lot of effort to create a video game these days, and most games end up being played a few hours at most. A life of 6 months would be considered very long. That's unfortunate considering all the work involved.

StarCraft is about 8 years old and still popular.
Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo is about 12 years old and still played in tournaments today.
Poker in its modern form is about 100 years old.
Chess is about 2,500 years old.
Go is over 4,200 years old.

1,000 years ago there weren't airplanes, cars, computers, electricity, or the United States of America. Ironically, 1,000 years from now, there won't be any of those things either. (Airplanes are cars are terrible forms of transportation, we'll be way beyond that. Electricity might be replaced by a better technology, "computers" will be woven into clothes and hiding in paint molecules on the wall or something, not in big boxes that sit next to a desk. The United States will have been disbanded somehow, its fall traceable to all the way back to George W. Bush's decisions.)

So what do we have to work with here? Card and board games seem safest, because it's too hard to even imagine what a "computer" game would be like. Would it run in a crazy resoultion that's like 2,000 dots per inch and on a display the size of a wall? Maybe everyone's walls will be used as giant "computer screens" in 1,000 years. Or maybe 3D will really mean 3D with hologram technology (that will hopefully look better than R2D2's "help me Luke, you're our only hope.") This "3D" stuff we have now will probably be a joke.

2D on the other hand is more likely to stand the test of time, especially on a card or a board. Now, cards and board games of the future will surely not be printed on cardboard but instead on super thin, light computer displays.

Anyway, back to the question. What properties would a game have if it is to last 100 or 1000 years? What kind of thing could it be and what kind of thing could it not be?


Reader Comments (7)

It needs deceptive simplicity. While ST and Chess are quite complex to look at, they aren't all that hard to be able to play. There is a skill level required for the others, but it's the fact anyone can realistically play them combined with the fact that there is so much to the games themselves.

November 15, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlink6616

I would guess that these games (Chess, Go, SF) have a mental appeal underneath (or beyond) their "aesthetics" of being about fighting styles, or peon and horseback military conquest. Small amount of simplicity breeds incredible amount of complexity. The psychology of decision making in each of these holds appeal to our brains. Mindgaming/yomi is SF's decision making. Building an attacking force while maintaining flawless defense is Chess's psychology, the psychology of mobilizing an army. I have little experience with Go, I am guessing its unrestricted nature is a huge part of it: battle can occur ANYWHERE on the board, only controlled areas cannot be entered (as opposed to the tight nature of movement in Chess).

I'm not certain about all of this. I am convinced that most games which will *not* survive 100 years are because of aesthetics or cultural appeal. The superficiality of a game wears off quickly, until it is reduced to its rules + play experience.

December 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterXeno

It feels redundant since you're far more knowledged on the subject than I am, but I say that a great amount of a game's lifespan comes from its variety. Starcraft and Total Annihilation came out at about the same time. TA offered 2 races, the second just being a copy of the first that had a few advantages/disadvantages and some differing units, Warcraft II style. TA was a fossil by 2000. Starcraft offered 3 races, each greatly differing in units, playing style, and disadvantages; each race is a different world that has to be explored to counter what your opponent will do (vultures will beat zealots and dragoons if you can surprise him with mines, but if he's got an observer, you'll probably need science vessels, etc). It's that variety that opens up the Yomi layers. In TA, I could win any game by massing any unit faster than the other guy massed his unit of choice. The gameplay is as dry as it sounds.

I'd take an example like Halo too. Each weapon plays rock-paper-scissors for short- and long-range combat. There's no Yomi involved, since one weapon is always the thing you'd use in any given situation. If your enemy is far off, use the Sniper rifle. If your enemy is close and has the Sword, use the Shotgun as he dives at you. If he has the Shotgun, keep a short distance away and use the Pistol. Following the rock-paper-scissors pattern gets predictable and dry. To contrast, Goldeneye's proximity mines and grenades launchers, which always made matches extremely tense for my part, always had you guessing and had no single "solution." They allowed for creativity but didn't defuse the purpose of the match.

Chess invalidates the variety argument in a way since the two sides are identical except for Black's position as second, but we can contrast chess's popularity to checkers. Checkers is a game that kids play in the summertime when they have nothing better to do, because all your pieces do the same thing, so the lack of variety becomes stale. Chess's popularity may never die down due to the variety that's in play after the first two steps and the web of options that you have available; like pro Starcraft matches, no two games of chess are the same. The ability to compete within the game, using variety as a channel and Yomi as the vehicle, is what makes any game fun.

Variety and ease of balance have a negative correlation, which is what makes it so hard to make a lasting game. They usually lack the one or the other.

January 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterslb1900

- Cheap
- Looks simple
- Basics are understood in a snap, but it takes years to understand the rest
- Ego rewarding
- You can play with someone who doesn't speak your language
- Offers many possibilities, way of playing
- Doesn't need (advanced) technology
- Doesn't need specific physical ability
- Fun

January 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterOmar

- Endlessly deep in terms of strategy but easy to dive in - so it must have a "beginners game", an "intermediate game", an "experts game" and a competetive-level "master's game". These are all the same game and yet require utterly different understandings at each level of progression. Most importantly, they must all be Both Chess and SF2 (and now SF4 IMO) do this very well., and so does, for example, football (Soccer).

- More on accessibility. You must be able to be competetive to at least the intermediate level without any special gifts of intelligence and dexterity. Chess and SF are OK at this, and I can't help feel that other games can and do do better.

- A good spectator sport - matches should be easily recordable and replayable and fun to watch. Chess does this via video but also the match books. SF2 via Youtube. To be fun to watch, someone a couple of grades of skill down the ladder should be able to enjoy and understand the brilliance of recorded games and feel like they are learning from them. I can watch Daigo and understand much of what he's doing even though I'm only Intermediate at SF4. If I watch Archery it's clearly very impressive but too repetetive and too internal to be exciting.

- A physical board game, as you've said, with very robust pieces that could conceivably be rendered very simply or elaborately. You can see from the alternative piece sets that are sold for Settlers and Agricola that this a virtue that is working for them. Arkham Horror is an amazing game but has too many different cards and pieces to be truly robust or simple.

- Either abstract (such as Go) or relying on cross-cultural fundamental human conflicts (which is where SF2, as a fairly generic fighting game, wins over games with swords or those that reference specific martial arts nuances like Virtua Fighter). Chess is about armies and the units are fairly abstract, so it works fine. Games based on specific cultural nuances are a no-no.

- Cheap to pick up and start with. This is a key virtue of Chess and Go, but even moreso of football (Soccer) where the startup cost is virtually nil. Carcassonne does this very well in the boardgames sector with a low startup price and then lots of cheap expansions. Polo never became huge because the startup cost is owning not just a horse, but a specific type of horse. This is also a strength of Magic: The Gathering and I think this one shouldn't be too hard to copy for almost any game. It's actually a weakness of SF games - someone needs to produce a basic, sturdy, pretty decent fighting stick for $30 or less to lower this barrier, or do it like the NeoGeo and have a stick come as one of the basic controllers.

December 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNeonsamurai

This is most easily answered by speculation based on what games that have withstood the test of time posses and do not posses.

- Require no writing, symbols, any form of language at all
- The heart of the game has no visual or cultural appeal
- Rules have no exceptions/special cases
- The platform/interface must also be timeless (for example, NES games pretty much only exist now because of emulators)
- Perceive-ably impossible to have the same game twice, even if you try
- ability to evolve without actually changing
- cannot be improved in any way

I think games in the future will largely be based on exploiting newer interfaces and appeals. For me, most games have nothing special game-play and are popular because 'it looks pretty'. Most games are just improved or alternate versions of games that already exist. There is little drive to create a timeless game over one that is just really popular since consecutive popular games will generate more revenue, and developing the perfect game is very time consuming and expensive. One also has to consider what the gamer would be like because the player decides what to play, regardless of what the developer develops.

December 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertyther

I know this article is old, but I wanted to make a point. I believe that there are many games that have the potential to last a long time. Whether or not they actually do is not so much about the game but about the community that happens to develop around the game. Starcraft has lasted this long not just because it is a good game, but also because it became a phenomenon at Korean internet cafes, and a big community built itself around it and made it big. I don't know the history of Street Fighter, but I know the community is strong behind it.

My theory says that the reason Chess has been around so long is not because it is the superior game to everything else, but for whatever reason the right people decided to form a community around that game for whatever reason. They passed the game down through the generations, and today there is still a dedicated international community that will keep the game running far into the foreseeable future.

Of course, if the game isn't any good, then it will not stand the test of time. But I don't think quality is the only factor. People will form communities for reasons that go far beyond gameplay. Starcraft was the game of choice because it had internet features way ahead if its time, and it happened to release right as Korea finished building a strong internet infrastructure. This, combined with its gameplay quality, is what made it a long-lasting title.

December 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAuthweight
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