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The future of gaming: where the industry's next steps should lead

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The need for innovation in the gaming industry was a major theme in many gaming publications' years-in-reviews. Innovation, it was concluded, was needed to bring the industry out of a stagnant cycle and move it forward into new, uncharted territory. Not only was it recommended that game developers go out on a limb, it was also suggested that players become more forgiving toward attempts at fresh, creative and quirky games. Whether innovation is really coming is yet to be seen. But after attending "The Future of Gaming" event held in Scurfield Hall last Wednesday, I can safely say that we should feel confident about the future of our favourite medium.

Hardware was one of the big three topics of discussion at the event and, led by Hewlett Packard Global Voodoo business unit chief technology officer Rahul Sood, the forecast for gaming hardware was bleak but promising at the same time. Microsoft and Sony's tales of production of their respective console systems have been catalogued sufficiently-- a quick Google search will bring you the stories of the development of these systems. Hearing the other side of these stories, namely the loss of money on behalf of each company, was very interesting and should forecast the future of these two juggernauts. Further, it seems that Nintendo is and will be king for a while; something that, no matter how hardcore of a gamer you are, should be embraced.

Innovation, though, is still key here and it is really easy for gamers to shun those types of things when they play a new game. Gamers know what they want and when we enter into a game with certain expectations that are not met, we are immediately disappointed. But there is something to be said about completely odd gameplay.

Immediately, Mirror's Edge comes to mind. Released late last year, it combined adventure elements with the first-person perspective. A few cast the game aside, as first-person has always been the domain of shooting games like Halo or Doom rather than the place for adventure games to call home. Either way, Mirror's Edge is a case in point of spelunking into that cavernous place known as innovation and the tribulations of what happens when the bright lights of gamer opinion find their way inside. What can be found is sometimes scary.

Casual games have become incredibly important since the Nintendo Wii was released. Steve Shatford from GamesCafe.com is on the front line of casual gaming and his slot of time at "The Future of Gaming" helped to really flesh out just how important and congenial they have become. If anything, the kind of casual games that are easy to learn and easy to play are going to be an important cog for the future of the industry. This is especially true as more and more people who rarely if ever played video games before have now started playing them. There was a bizarre statistic last week stating that the Wii Fit has sold more units than the popular Halo 3. More and more we are starting to see the surging dominance of casual games and if we choose to dismiss them as inconsequential, we are just lying to ourselves.

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