While the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo gives people everywhere a look at where gaming is going in the sense of revealing new and upcoming products, the Game Developers Conference offers a look at the gaming industry from an entirely different angle. In effect, GDC allows the minds behind interactive digital entertainment to pull the curtain further back and show where things are going in other senses, whether they be business or design-minded, as well as what to expect in the coming months and years at retail. Brilliant minds, fresh and experienced alike, come together to show what they have learned or are in the process of learning so that the industry as a whole may further grow, and in terms of overall trends and topics, this year’s show was once again filled with a range of fascinating insights.
Perhaps the most prominent of all trends to emerge from the 2015 GBD is the ongoing escalation of virtual reality. Though the dream of the types of immersive experiences seen in television and movies seemed all but abandoned as the ’90s drew to a close, advances in technology have seen the concept essentially reborn as Sony proudly demonstrated what Project Morpheus was capable of at the show. The company was hardly alone, as Valve and HTC joined the party attended by Sony’s Morpheus and Facebook’s Oculus Rift with the announcement of their new Vive hardware and Unity unveiled the Unity 5 development software.
Another growing topic is that of streaming games through the cloud. Adding to this conversation was former Square Enix CEO Yoichi Wada’s discussion about the company’s latest venture, Shinra Technologies, which seeks to create a streaming service alongside other industry powerhouses such as Ubisoft, one comparable to OnLive. Rather than simply offering classic titles as Sony’s PlayStation Now provides, however, Wada noted that Shinra’s eyes were on a bigger prize: To encourage developers to create games which cannot be played on typical home computer or video game console hardware, allowing for multiplayer experiences accessible to a greater number of people.
Unfortunately, not all trends in gaming are so positive or optimistic as the march of technology to further enhance the user-end experience. In particular, the troubles and difficulties faced by women in the industry has been an increasingly growing concern for the last several months. During the #1ReasonToBe panel at the convention, eight women spoke out with messages regarding the “episodes of intolerance and harassment” which have been prevalent over the last year. While the eight who took the stage delivered words to inspire, words read in silence from those who were unable to attend would feel equally striking as well.
Similarly, a light was cast upon the shadow of another type of discrimination. Rather than an issue of gender, a panel hosted by David Mullich, producer of such titles as The Prisoner, Heroes of Might and Magic 3, and Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines, revealed that ageism is another problem developing in the industry. He noted that despite Entertainment Software Association statistics showing 26 percent of gamers are over the age of 50, only one percent of workers in the industry are of similar age, and proceeded to discuss how older developers could adapt and survive while publishers need to embrace new audiences.
Finally, with regard to new trends, as people have continued to ponder the prospect and possibilities of a “one-console future,” Microsoft has taken steps towards actually realizing it– at least, among their own brands. With the forthcoming Windows 10 operating system, the company seeks a “unified platform for video games across the full spectrum of devices,” as noted by Xbox head Phil Spencer. “This is the first time that all of Xbox’s efforts will show up with a single unified voice and vision for what we want to do in the games industry,” he added. “We want to make it so it’s incredibly simple to deliver a single game that runs across multiple devices.”
And there you have it – another year’s GDC down, another year full of intriguing new developments.