At the Dragon*Con 2012 panel “Ten, Twenty and Thirty Years of Gaming,” three notable gaming professionals, Richard Garriott, Mike Capps and Chris Avellone, discussed some of the ways in which the industry has changed over the past three decades. With varying levels of experience and exposure, each panelist gave unique insight into each topic and compelling opinions on the business as a whole.
When asked about the role of gaming professionals, Garriott commented that, in the early days of the industry, people really started designing games for themselves. That is, he had to start projects with no way to interface with the player community. He had no way of knowing what people would want or like to play. Nowadays, companies can communicate and evaluate gamers’ opinions through the internet in order to improve the likeability and marketability of a game (think about the changes made to the ending of Mass Effect 3).
Obviously, another aspect of the industry that has changed distinctly is pricing. Capps acknowledged the increase but reminded the audience that games today are much more expensive to make: “It’s about recouping money.” On the other hand, they do realize that ridiculous prices can do more harm than good. Garriott personally feels that games that constantly pester you for a payment of some kind is not the best way to get sales. Capps agreed, adding that “it can really mess with your reputation as a company.” Consequently, all three of them seemed to agree that “micro-transactions” and “try before you buy” are essential to the nature of the business today.
However, the comment that elicited one the biggest audience reactions was Garriott’s on the role of consoles in the future: “I think consoles are dead.” He argued that the prevalence of mobile devices and overlap of computers and TV will make systems like the Playstation and Xbox 360 unnecessary. Elaborating, he said that it used to be that consoles were by the TV where you socialized with the family, while PCs were in the office alone. Now, “that separation is going away.” Skeptical glances were exchanged throughout the entire room, including from me.
What do they miss? Garriott said that he misses “the sense of exploration where people used to keep notebooks with maps and what [characters] said. Now [players] usually click until they can’t click anymore, then they get an arrow anyway.” Avellone feels that the opportunities to write your own bios add a lot of character to the experience but are, unfortunately, not as numerous today. On the other hand, chances to customize characters have certainly increased in both number and detail
Ultimately, the industry has undergone some pretty obvious changes, yet the enjoyment that players get from video and computer games endures.