How can I know what video games will be like in the year 2040? How can I do anything but speculate? Preparing for a futurist panel tonight, I've determined 30 things we will know about about video games by 2040.
I don't know if anyone will have played a video game on the moon by then (probably?!?) but I am confident about the following:
1) We will know whether the proper way to follow-up World of Warcraft was with World of Warcraft 2 or an eternally-updated World of Warcraft.
2) We will know what it is like for gaming to have a class of senior citizen former video game designers, and maybe even a pantheon of greats who have passed away. The lions of game design today, be they Shigeru Miyamoto, Peter Molyneux or Will Wright, all currently in their 50s, will have full careers at which we can look back, to see their themes, their successes and their failures.
3) We will know if it ever made sense to stop annual releases of Madden NFL games and, if so, which year that occurred.
4) We will know what it looks like to see a Star Wars video game that has more realistic-looking spaceships and aliens than anything in the most famous Star Wars movies.
5) We will know whether free was the right price for games, after all.
6) We will know, if games are anything like books and movies, what it is like to experience a great gaming version of Hamlet, Beowulf, or Robin Hood.
7) We will know, if games are anything like writing and film-making and board games, a video game about the Holocaust.
8) We will know if any game made between 2001 and 2010 can hold up as well in 2040 as Pac-Man does today.
9) We will know if Pac-Man holds up as well 30 years from now as it does today, 30 years after its creation.
10) We will know if the time was ever finally right to re-make Final Fantasy VII.
11) We will know if three was the the right number of major gaming console makers, or whether it was too high or too low.
12) We will know if playing video games on a TV will be as uncommon for gamers in 2040 as watching movies in a movie theater is for moviegoers in 2010. After all, moviegoers in 1980 watched movies in theaters, not in the backs of airplane seats, on their laptops, on their flat-panel TVs, and on the small screens they carried in a rear jeans pocket.
13) We will know whether it still makes technological sense for a person to own a game-playing box that stays forever in their home while they have other gaming devices they take with them.
14) We will know how may more times PC gaming "died."
15) We will know if single-player video games are the historical aberration that some who trace play back to the caveman era say they are.
16) We will know whether Grand Theft Auto ever stopped being made and, if so, why.
17) We will know nostalgia for games made in 2020, the same way Nintendo games of 1990 enjoy the nostalgia of grown-up gamers introducing them to their kids now — the same way "PlayStation Dads" are likely to start appearing in the next several years.
18) We will know, surely, a sliver or more of a generation of kids who decide that video games, that thing their parents loved, was as stupid and uncool as Elvis or that archaic movie about blue aliens that came out way back in 2009.
19) We will know the end of Duke Nukem Forever jokes.
20) We will know of a second video game that stars a black woman, surely the first occurrence won't be alone?
21) We will know, if there are, say two new consoles every seven years (to be conservative), at least eight new controllers of significance. Unless video games no longer need controllers.
22) We will know how timeless it is for video game bosses to continue to be killed in three hits.
23) We will know whether gaming was rock n roll, a form of entertainment that needed the know-nothings to die off before it could achieve full acceptance, or whether it is like the trombone or French, something most everyone will need to be trained to do — a training for which some people can never be bothered.
24) We will know whether high-end video games — or video games of any type — will be the pleasure merely of the global super-rich or if those in South America and Africa can someday enjoy video games as a major, affordable entertainment form.
25) We will know, hopefully, what it is like to play a great video game that was developed by someone who lives in the Third World.
26) We will know if cut-scenes ever stopped looking better than gameplay.
27) We will know if 3D was just a fad, with glasses or not.
28) We will know, if video games are anything like the rest of pop culture, what it is like for a popular video game character to come out of the closet.
29) We will know if developers still need publishers to get big video games out — and if gamers still need game developers to make them.
30) We will know how Kotaku is doing.
Talk to me about this in 2040, okay?
If you are in New York City today, check out the panel where game designer Eric Zimmerman, Take-Two CEO Ben Feder and I will attempt to envision what video games will be like in 30 years. Details here.