Those beautiful minds at Valve are at it again, showing off prototypes of the much speculated Steambox at the CES.
I'm not sure what to make of it all. Personally, I have a PC. I like playing games on my PC. In my life, I've never really had this impetus to play all my gaming on the TV screen, or insist that I'm able to switch monitors on the fly – not since the days of playing the NES on the family 20-inch and being booted off in the middle of a level.
But when Valve does something, I take notice. Even if the Steambox isn't something that might be for me (and it's way too early to even know exactly what it is), I just like watching Valve work. You get to see lovely interviews like this one with Gabe and catch a little glimpse of the future.
It's one thing when he talks about making the Steambox open and modular. About not tying it down to one manufacturer and operating on Linux. It's another when he says that ideally you'll be able to network multiple games off the same box to different screens in a household. Or about valuing the audience as content generators and finding a way to monetize top players. That stuff is all well and good. But when he starts getting into Biometrics, when phrases like "gaze-tracking" start getting tossed around, that's when you start to realize just how crazy those cats are.
All of these cool ideas that I would have written off as science fiction seem to be just around the corner. Occulus Rift is finally bringing home the cyberpunk VR experience nerds have always dreamed of. I look at how Xbox Live fundamentally changed the way I play video games, at what Nintendo is doing with the Wiiverse, and I wonder what Microsoft is going to respond with their next console. More networking, more inter-connectivity, all seamless and supported. Cloud saving, day-one digital purchases, built in streaming. It's bananas.
I got a Nexus 7 Tablet this Christmas, and it's the coolest thing in the world to me. I have to admit, I've become something of a dinosaur the past few years, I haven't kept up with what recent smart phones and tablets can really do. When I'm able to shout an address at this thing and it plots me a route, which is then tracked by satellites on the way, I get some goosebumps. The future is finally here. We might not have jetpacks, but I think what we got in trade is even cooler.
Some people like to get snide and poo on Valve. "Oh its easy to be progressive and daring when you're sitting on millions from the Steam Store" or "the Valve corporate structure is only good for one place, Valve." Maybe there is some truth to the criticism. But you know what? Screw em. I'm happy to see a company out there experimenting and trying new things. I want to believe in the idea that we can get away from the strict corporate hierarchy structure that defines North American business. I don't think there is anything wrong with applauding a company showing ambition and goals in areas other than making as much money as possible.