By Javier Rahaim
This is an exciting time to be a gamer, whether you're a casual gamer or a dedicated player. New advances in technology are breaking new ground in game design possibilities every day as the gaming industry's landscape changes beyond recognition. Companies are capitalizing on the still-young surge in social gaming, from creating virtual battlefields or the best online casino. Here are a few of the big changes taking place that you should be aware of.
Facebook isn't getting rid of virtual currency altogether, as you still have Farmville Coins and so on. Soon, you'll be able to spend actual currency in social gaming. This should help to simplify the whole process and make social games more like online casino sites.
The idea of product placement isn't something most gamers will get excited about, but they should. The new trend in game funding right now is for advertisers to back upstart game developers to build games around their brand. This might not sound very interesting, but it's actually the business model that Japan has been using in the film industry for years. The truth is that it allows more freedom to explore game design concepts than you'll likely get from a mainstream developer with a $30 million budget. The lower budgets and established brands mean that this area of game design allows for young developers to explore unique ideas in a financially risk-free scenario.
In the past, it was hard to get your friends, let alone your mom or your co-workers, to talk about the same games that you were interested. Maybe your wife or boyfriend likes Cooking Mama and Tetris, but chances are they're not going to give the new Zelda a go with you, right? With the recent breakthrough of Runescape reaching 200 million players, it has become clear that there is no longer a distinct line drawn between hardcore and casual gamers. How this reflects on game design will be a fascinating theme over the next few years.
A big idea in game design right now is augmented reality. Augmented reality games take in data like GPS and even real world visuals and transform that into a unique gameplay experience. This means you could be playing a shooter with a camera-enabled smart phone and be shooting at virtual enemies hiding in windows across the street, or you might be chasing other players on a GPS screen in order to meet for an in-game duel. The possibilities are really endless and the line between games and reality is becoming less clear all the time.
If you weren't convinced by anything else on this list, just take a moment to remember that Google Glasses are no doubt going to eventually feature some intense action games, while Valve is developing similar hardware. Online gaming is taking a lot of giant leaps forward to keep up with the constant evolution of gaming.
While we often sit back and lament the lack of great games coming out currently, the fact is that the technology has never been more exciting, and it's only getting better.