12 Sep 2011

Smile Week: Incredible Ubiquity

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how I was going to kick off Smile Week. About which ideas I’d pull together and what stories I’d share. Unfortunately I’d spent a lot of time thinking and not very much writing, which isn’t very helpful.

As I sat on the train between Manchester and Winchester staring out of the window into the darkness I wondered how to start it all. Then I did what any gamer would do – I picked up my smartphone and had a quick blast on Cut The Rope. Feeding Omnom those delectable pieces of candy made me realise something.

Gaming is everywhere

The normal reaction to this is “so what?”, and it’s a reasonable response. But it wasn’t so long ago when playing video games meant hooking a mysterious box up to your telly, digging out an audio cassette and praying to the gods of small chaos that your game wouldn’t crash when the tape stopped.

Since those early days gaming has spread to infest itself in almost all consumer electronics devices made today. They’re no longer tethered to the home, instead being as portable and accessible as a book.
I said back when I introduced Smile Week that I’d talk about the good stuff in MMOs, and this is a prime example. When games first emerged on phones they were in the main static affairs that occasionally used an online connection for downloading high score tables or grabbing new content. They were basically used as a GameBoy with a nice screen and a few less buttons.

Nowadays they’re a hotbed of innovation, and it’s easy to see why. Blanket data coverage combined with smartphones capable of high quality graphics almost begs for pocket worlds to be created that use this new technology. The great thing is that these new games are only the beginning.

Modern MMOs provide a great way of interacting with the game world away from the desktop. We’ve already seen Blizzard take advantage of this by offering access to the Auction house mini game through their mobile app. It’s likely that this concept will evolve further, providing us with ways to have an impact on the game world wherever we are.

Even more interesting is the opportunity for augmented reality to impact your gaming. GPS positioning and reasonable built-in cameras provide ways to bring the game-world to life around the player. Wile this may not be useful to World of Warcraft, a modern-day MMO like The Secret World or a post-apocalyptic/near-future cyberpunk could use this tool to much better effect.

Sometimes there’s a concern that MMOs can’t innovate further – that the concept has been exhausted. But all this stuff is just emerging and isn’t being used anywhere near it’s full potential yet. There are some incredible opportunities out there just by using these ubiquitous devices.

And that is definitely something to smile about.

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