Why the Future of Video Games are ‘Pokemon Go’ and Its Ilk
Posted January 8, 2018
In Rolling Stone‘s Glixel, Edwin Schlossberg, President and Principal Designer at ESI Design, discusses why, in a crowded world, mass gaming is becoming essential:
On a Friday evening this summer dozens of people used a smartphone app to role play as journalists and track down an actor dressed as iconic Brooklyn poet Walt Whitman on the streets of a Brooklyn neighborhood in a game called Lost in Time.
This was just one of the unusual scenes unfolding at the Come Out & Play Festival, an annual outdoor event showcasing original games that make innovative use of public space and inspire people to interact in new ways. The event also happens to be a top destination for designers trying out new ideas and concepts for multiplayer games.
Come Out & Play is an ideal testing ground for these types of large-scale games as it provides lots of open space and plenty of eager players to observe and who can provide feedback in real-time. You can see firsthand how intuitive a game is, if players can quickly grasp the rules and if they are continuing to have fun even if they are not racking up the highest scores. Hit games like Killer Queen Arcade, the ten-person cabinet arcade game with built-in beer holders, got its start at Come Out & Play, and my firm, ESI Design, has used Come Out & Play for many years to test and develop multiplayer, live-action games for museums, hotels, and stores across the country.
I have always been fascinated with games that can be played by large groups of people, especially ones that can be played in the same space. In the 1970s, I wrote three bestselling books on games for pocket calculators, which was about as close as you could get to mobile gaming at that time. But rather than writing games that could just be played between the user and his or her pocket calculator, I created as many games as possible where the pocket calculator became a platform for playing games with other people, a device for social interaction.
While many games today are created for a single person to play with a single screen, we are increasingly seeing that people are hungry for games they can play in the real world with a few friends, and also with groups of strangers. Look no further than the popularity of Pokémon Go, color runs, escape rooms, pillow fights, flash mobs, Tough Mudder and more.
Why have these large-scale, in-real-life games struck such a nerve?
First and foremost, people simply have more fun when they play together in the same physical place. You improve your skills by seeing, observing, and interacting. You get better at working and collaborating with other players. You make new friends. These are not just qualities of a rewarding game; these are qualities the world needs now more than ever. There are 200,000 new people on Earth every day. We need experiences where we begin to really love being with other people and gain the skills to work, live, and play well together.