Video game players are hugely demanding when it comes to interface design – both in terms of input devices (ie controllers) and in-game information displays. Video games are also pushing the envelope when it comes to artificial intelligence, procedural content generation and physics modelling. This means a lot of the technologies that are going to affect our lives in the next decade are being tested and developed in the video game sphere.
Sometimes this is obvious. Currently, most virtual and augmented reality development is in video games: the PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets are mostly being used to make games, but that won’t always be the case – when headsets become less unwieldy and when more movie and television companies start to explore the possibilities of 360-degree video, VR and AR experiences are going to become a lot more common. We’ll be shopping in VR, attending sports events in VR, using AR to redesign our living rooms. Learning about these technologies now is a good idea.
But there are less obvious ways that games are taking a role in shaping our futures. Video games have become important testbeds for artificial intelligence research. The Google-owned AI company DeepMind tests its intelligent programs by pitting them against video games – the latest example is StarCraft. In the US, Dr Mark Riedl and his colleagues at Georgia Tech university have developed a game-like narrative platform called Quixote, where AI agents are able to learn moral lessons from player-created stories; this approach could well be used in the coming years to teach robots how to make moral decisions. Microsoft’s research department in Cambridge is using Minecraft to test and teach AI bots.
The future of communication with our major service providers – from banks to retailers – is with intelligent chatbots. Games offer practice in talking to machines.