Gaming tech has come a long way in a short space of time, but what will the future look like? Is the retro revival here to stay? Our guest shares his thoughts.
What’s the future of gaming? Writer and voice actor Mike Paul takes a look in the first of a two-part feature for Which? Conversation.
This is a guest post by Mike Paul. All views expressed are Mike’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
As many of us cradle our lost childhood like a melting snowman, I want to take a moment to take a look at gaming’s trend towards the past, and how the future might look between now and 2030.
Like most other entertainment mediums, gaming can be reflective of the society that’s playing. The 80s featured hard-hitting techno, flashing neon lights and frantic button-tapping.
The 90s were cool and kick-ass; gamers took control of Sonic, Guile, Duke Nukem, and that guy from Doom… whatever his name was.
The interconnected noughties saw the proper rise of online gaming – MMORPGs and gigantic open worlds to get lost in… as an alternative to the less appealing one outside.
Then the 2010s built on this further and even blurred the lines with the introduction of games such as Pokémon Go, which took us to augmented reality fantasy lands filled with creatures that at least behave like they want to be your friends.
Based on this evidence, living in massive shared online worlds and constantly staring at your phone is the way things seem to be going.
Are retro games the new ‘new’?
One modern gaming trend, other than having to constantly interact with other people during the time I’m trying to spend by myself, is renewed affection for the simpler retro games of the 1990s.
In 2020, we have a whole generation of people in their late 30s and early 40s who grew up gaming on the 32- and 64-bit marvels of Sega and Nintendo. But while the spirit to mercilessly hunt down their friends for hours on Goldeneye still burns within them, most simply don’t have time any more.
— Mike Paul (@mikepaulvox) March 6, 2020
For some, the speed and simplicity of opening and closing a laptop for a nip of familiar retro action is the only way to squeeze in a half-hour session between making dinner and changing nappies.
If you’ve got a young family, you probably haven’t got an Xbox, and if you do, I’d wager it’s the most expensive drinks coaster in your house.
Some retro aficionados claim they stay in the past because modern games have become too cinematic, too grand in scale, and they can’t find the room to get into them – but I don’t buy that.
If you ask me, enormous RPG wonderlands such as Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto and the Elder Scrolls series are like watching a Netflix box set: you’re meant to enjoy them gradually. Though I suppose you could binge one if you got stuck at your parents’ house for a week with only the cat for company.
On the other hand, I can see that watching an episode from season six of The Simpsons when you’ve got a quiet 20 minutes between screaming children and a flooding dishwasher is the equivalent of a quick nostalgia session on Championship Manager 2001/02.
If anything, it’s Ronaldo, if you can believe that. Look at all this! pic.twitter.com/6CAYnI853f
— Mike Paul (@mikepaulvox) March 1, 2019
You just load up your save, fail to sign a few players, play a couple of matches, lose the will to live, and PING! The chicken nuggets are done. Lid down, game over, back to reality.
Retro is always in, following roughly 20-year cycles as it does, but in gaming, it’s never been more in than it is right now.
Easy to pick up, easy to put down, quicker victories, and – crucially – absolutely no obligation to talk to another living soul for the entire time you’re playing. Sign me up.
Mobile gaming, you might note, is picking up on a similar thread – but more about that next time.
The distant future
So, what of the roaring twenty-twenties? One prediction is that virtual reality will take over the decade, but I reckon it could take some time to develop beyond its current, relatively simplistic state.
The Red Dwarf-style fully immersive VR experience where you’re in serious danger of becoming someone you actually like is still a lot more than ten years away, if you ask me.
No, I think the early stages of 2020 are going to see yet more movement towards easy, mobile, browser-based gaming that can take place across multiple platforms, not forcing gamers to do old-fashioned things like own a PlayStation or sit in a chair.
Who wants to do that when you can run down the street with your phone, eh?
I will make one bold prediction for the 2020s before I go: the next generation of consoles, including the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X, will be the last.
What do you think will happen in gaming and its associated tech by 2030?
This was a guest post by Mike Paul. All views expressed were Mike’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
Mike will be back on Which? Conversation next week to present a timeline of gaming technology from the last 40 years.