Upon seeing this topic the all too obvious choice for what to write about was the repetitiveness and saminess that exists in the current generation of console but rather than complain about what’s wrong I want to discuss something more important than hardware specs and software lineups, I am going to discuss the new gaming community that came with this generation, and what we should aim for in the coming generation to keep those new gamers.
I came to this topic because every generation there are games that surprise me and turn out to be absolute masterpieces that are fun to play and/or beautiful to look at so simply pushing games further in that direction with different input devices is not going to be enough; It wont impress casual gamers the way the wii did and it won’t be able to excite the hardcore gamer that is becoming very comfortable sitting on the types of games they’ve become good at. This next generation needs to embrace this new larger gaming community and blur the lines between casual and hardcore gamers if not abolish them completely.
The audience for gaming has grown a lot in the last five years not just in sheer numbers but also in the types of people that play games. I work for a game testing company and have been there on and off for 5 years and each year I have noticed a greater and greater number of minorities and women working there compared to the exceptionally rare minority or woman that were there when I started. This is a big deal and it isn’t something we can afford to ignore for another generation. The industry needs to engage these demographics in more than shallow ways we have thus far or we risk losing a large portion of our audience.
Right now women and minorities are portrayed as eye candy, cannon fodder, and/or stereotypes which has not engaged anyone of those groups and led to much greater hostility to anyone openly part of these groups (if you doubt this try playing a game on xbox live with a gamertag that clearly identifies you as something other than a heterosexual white male). So in the coming generation a big change I would like to see is increased diversity in game characters to include realistic portrayals of women and minorities, people being more tolerant to these groups, and a better way of regulating and limiting the harassment that goes on in online gaming. If we can get all of these into the next generation of game consoles we will likely see more diverse and new titles coming out that will cater to those new demographics and in turn give the old hard core of gaming something new and exciting to try out.
It will take more than just relatable characters though to keep these new groups engaged in gaming. We as a community need to embrace these new gamers rather than shun and dismiss them as casuals or noobs. I think a greater emphasis on local multiplayer would do wonders in this regard. Local multiplayer allows people to game while sitting next to the person they are playing with so they can joke around and talk about the game they’re playing and is a great way to bond with the people you are gaming with. By spending more time with people in the gaming community we will be forced to remember how to behave around other people we are playing with, a skill that has been sorely lacking in this generation. This also goes a long way to eliminating the stereotype of gamers as socially awkward loners which likely has kept some people away from gaming. Overall a bigger emphasis on local multiplayer would be a huge boost to the gaming community as a whole.
The last big thing I would like to see come into being for the next generation of consoles is some sort of official gaming awards ceremony and no the spike tv gaming awards do not qualify as that show is just a list of the biggest selling games and a pile of commercials for their sequels. Having an official award show like the Oscars or Emmys will give developers something to shoot for beyond just great sales. An awards show gives a chance to developers to take a chance on something more experimental and edgy without worrying about losing their jobs if the game isn’t a huge financial success, and fosters friendship and camaraderie within the game developing community which would help eliminate fanboyism. An awards show would also get people to try out games they otherwise wouldn’t have thought about. The keys are that it can’t be a publicity show and it should be done by the games industry for the games industry with the presenters being people involved in the gaming industry (picture Cliffy B presenting a lifetime achievement award to Shigeru Miyamoto).
So all in all I think the next console generation doesn’t need to shake things up much from a hardware or software perspective but rather should focus on nurturing and bringing together the gaming community so that we are more welcoming and accepting to future gamers and game developers.