Mobile technology has redefined communication, e-commerce, social activities, and games. A few years ago would any of us have taken a game to play while waiting in the doctor's office, or sitting on the subway? Last night I walked into a movie theater 10 minutes before the start. The room was glowing with nearly everyone on a mobile device, many playing games. We have welcomed this new technology with open arms and wallets.
As a long term 'gamer' I've been disappointed in the current titles for multiple player games. Most are basically copies of existing online, or board games. Others seem to add multi-player mode as an after thought. There are a handful of good 2 player games designed for the iPad. They are a good start. Game designers seem to be stuck in old definitions of multi-player games. We need to unlock our imagination to parallel the power of the new devices.
The history of electronic games has always been connected to the hardware technology that we use to interact with them. The 1970's was filled with knobs and joysticks, like Pong's rotating knobs, and the Atari 2600 joystick. The 1980's brought us the multi-button control pad made famous by Nintendo. The control pad and joysticks were combined in the 1990's by Playstation and X-Box. The new century added the motion capture technologies of Kinect and Wii. This hardware evolved over 40 years. Each of these user interface technologies effected the design of the games they interacted with.
We are at a critical point to completely redefine the interaction between player and game; and player to player. It's important to note that mobile devices differ from the past gaming experiences in three crucial ways:
1. In the past the controller was inherently separate from the video display. Now the screen is the major input device. If I want to point at an item I can just touch it on the screen.
2. The past controllers were completely hardware based. They took a lot of research, development, and fabrication time. Now the user interaction is mostly software based, allowing for faster design modifications.
3. Past games were locked to their base hardware: desktop computer; TV console; or arcade machine. (Yes, major game companies developed small mobile game devices, but they still had the above controller restrictions) The mobility of the new devices unlocks the when and where games can happen like never before.
The examples above may seem obvious, but when I look at the 2 player games on the market they seem stuck trying to replicate the interactive modes from the past. We need to stop translating old game modes. Let's create some entirely new genres.
We need to look at future game design with the fresh eyes of the children growing up with these devices. A 2 year old picks up the device and quickly flies across the interface. They know nothing of past joysticks and A, B, X, Y buttons; nor should we force them back in that direction. Rather than ask: "How can we port Game X to the iPad?" we should be asking: "How can we design a completely new game that uses all of the power of the iPad?"
We need to design new games from the ground up that harness the power of touch screens, motion sensors, hi-rez graphics, rockin' audio, bluetooth, iBeacons, and the internet.
Much of the above applies to single player and multiplayer games. My focus is to use the power of the new mobile technology to create an entirely new gaming interaction between people.