The era of pure paper and pen games is drawing to a close. Technology is coming to the gaming table and changing how we play. At the moment this is limited to PDFs of rule books and iPhone dice shakers but where will we be in 10 years time?
Always Online with a Big Fat Pipe
In ten years time, we will all be connected to the net all the time. We will also have a range of devices to take advantage of this but the useful one for gamers will be the netbook type device. Several times more powerful and cheaper than the current generation, they will replace many rule books and character sheets. Why bother carrying around all those dead trees when you can store your books and characters in the cloud?
In fact, why bother being in the same place as each other to game?
Various digital game tables (including WotC own failed attempt) are starting to spring up. At the moment they are not suitable for your average gaming group but in ten years time they will be proven technologies. The cheapness of the camera and microphone technology plus a high bandwidth pipe will enable the remote gamer to have much fuller ‘almost in the room’ experience. Gaming groups that would of once disbanded because the GM moves to a new town can now continue wherever the players are. Players of obscure games will be able to find other players to form groups and communities easily. This will enable and encourage games companies to produce more specialised games and support older games.
Take you iPhone and double its size five times (as Moore’s law predicts) and you end up with a surface about 6′ x 4′ – The perfect size for a gaming table. In ten years time this sort of technology will be available for about the price of an iPhone.
Microsoft and others are already working on this idea.
The most obvious use for this technology is as a high-tech battle mat but that is only scraping the surface of this technology. Gamers are an inventive group of people and we will push this technology to its limits.
This is a difficult technology to explain and could be described as a solution in search of a problem. The technology is certainly cool but it is not obvious how it will fit into the gaming table other than as gimmick. However, I think Augmented Reality will be surprising useful like Twitter is. On the surface it appears frivolous and pointless but when the right circumstance presents itself (e.g. the Iran protests) it will suddenly became vital. With the right game and the right technology, this could could literally change how we see our games.
For a quick introduction to the technology, watch this video.
People are already exploring it gaming potential such as in the two videos below.
What of Pen and Paper?
The new technology will not destroy traditional pen and paper role playing games. They even may even prosper as a hard core of gamers avoid technology, focusing on games that emphasis human interaction and pure imagination. Predicting exactly what will happen is impossible but technology is coming to the games table and it will change how we play.