Whilst recently writing a feature piece about the future of gaming, I was expecting to be writing about realistic graphics that would blow your mind out the back of your skull, but when approaching industry professionals, I was very surprised. None of them said that amazing graphics would be the thing of the future! One of the answers I was given was especially helpful to me, as it really did nudge my mind in a brand new direction. The focus is not necessarily on the games now, it's all about the communities!
The obvious games in this case are massively multiplayer online grind games. I make it no secret that I am addicted to one of these uphill treadmills, where everything needs some form of one main commodity, your time (and so therefore life). I play EVE online, but like other online games, it is the community that makes it for me. If it were a single player offline game, I would have got bored and left years ago. The fact that almost every spaceship flying around out there has a (possibly sweaty) person sitting at his/her keyboard is quite immense, considering that there are 200 vs 200 fleet battles in some places. The people I play with are from all over the world. Australia, the USA, the Netherlands, and probably more places that I can only dream of pronouncing the names of correctly. Even though I have never met any of them, I feel as if I know them like my friends, when basically, I have met them whilst playing internet spaceships.
The developers of EVE and probably other MMORPGs listen to the players, the community and pander to what they want (if the idea is sane and has enough people wanting it). This sense of a player driven game is literally 'give the fans what they want' mentality and on the whole, it works. Other games that don't depend on subscriptions, such as Splinter Cell: Double Agent don't pander to fans so much. I mentioned this game specifically, as on just about any PC I have tried it on, it is unplayable due to horrible bugs which make the game unplayable. It's like Ubisoft decided to knee cap it on purpose, and tied up any beta testers that complained because I really have no idea how it got through quality control. I was a fan, along with the legions of other people asking the developers for a patch or something that would fix the game. Since they already had our money, it became apparent that Ubisoft decided it could abandon the game and concentrate on the next money making idea.
Another angle to look at this idea of the gaming community, is the desire to expand it to other people, trying to appeal to all. The Nintendo Wii for example is marketed as a console for everyone to try. It isn't all about complexes button combinations or perfect timing. Its about waggling a stick and having a good time. This idea of having very easy to control and fun games so that it appeals to people who don't even know what a Microsoft Playstation 360 is, means that the gaming community can grow to involve more casual players.
Also on the topic of casual gaming is the sheer amount of little internet browser based games that there are now. Companies like Popcap games make little time wasting, but addictive games means that people who don't want to pick up a control pad, but are too young for sudoku can easily pick up and play. Even my mum, who is fairly technological illiterate, likes nothing better than to sit down at a computer and play simple games like Tetris and Freecell.
Basically, the games industry is becoming more accessible for a new generation of players. There are the hardcore gamers who enjoy getting involved in a universe of complex controls and a constantly changing storyline that gets more epic by the second, and then there are casual players who just want to lark about on the computer.