Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The future of gaming: It's now

(CNN) -- The future of video gaming is bright, according to four industry visionaries who spoke at a recent gaming event.

Kellee Santiago, Ken Levine, Paul Barrett and Mark DeLoura were part of a panel discussion at the opening of a new Smithsonian exhibit, The Art of Video Games. Each has been successful in the gaming business and has great hope for what's to come.

Barrett, the senior creative director for BioWare-Mythic, said people who are going to make games in the future are playing them right now. He describes this time in those gaming lives as their Golden Age.

"What's interesting about my Golden Age is it is where I learned my prejudices about what games I liked and I don't like," Barrett said. "That period defined my understanding of games so that when I had the chance to make games, those are the kinds of game I wanted to make."

For the gamers of today, he said, "The current Golden Age is pretty bloody good."

Others on the panel said they were also driven to create games that reflected or expressed something they wanted to share with others. For Levine, the creative director of the "BioShock" franchise, it is about creating worlds and telling stories that mean something in those worlds.

He related a story about the creation of "BioShock," where players can save or sacrifice young girls, known as Little Sisters, to gain power. In the beginning of the creative process, the little girls were sea slugs.

"In order for the story to be meaningful, we had to create empathy between the player and the thing they were making a decision about," Levine said. "That took a while for that to come about. The actual choice became simple -- what do you want to do with this little girl?"

Santiago and DeLoura hope future game designers go beyond what games are about today and challenge themselves and the industry about what gaming could be.

DeLoura, the vice president of technology at THQ, wants the constraints of today's design to seem archaic to those who are just getting started and hopes for more diversity.

"The games that break down (the conventional) mentality is what does it for me," he said. "For us pioneers up here, one of the things I would like to challenge us to do is to reach out into communities you don't expect games to come from and really pull those out and get them shared with the broader community."

Santiago, co-founder and president of thatgamecompany, echoed that sentiment of opening up new ideas for games of the future. She is also a partner in IndieFund, which helps independent game developers reach and maintain financial independence.

"My biggest hope is that the people who will be making games, what those people look like, completely changes," she said. "We're going to see new types of stories and new types of experiences. With greater technology and distribution channels, it has flipped a switch for people and they say, 'Oh, I could do that too!'"

Levine added that with additional venues for gaming like app stores and Kickstarter, future game designers don't have to be driven to find funding to produce games anymore. He said that without that financial pressure, creativity goes up.

"Games were my companion as a kid," Levine said. "It didn't shut my world down. It opened my world up."

Barrett said there is a whole new wave of people who want to make games that are fearless, expect success and have wide ranging views. He said those future designers have one goal in mind.

"They don't want to make games that are art. They want to make games that are awesome."

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