Alexandra Dunn

The Reality of Augmented Gaming

As AR continues to permeate marketing and advertising, it's also started to gain traction within gaming. As more and better AR games hit the market they're likely to garner a lot of hype and swift adoption by a huge audience.

Like augmented reality, mobile gaming had a much-hyped but rocky start, taking around five years to achieve mainstream uptake. But now the immense success of mobile gaming – the most common category of app downloads accounting for 67% of time spent on tablet apps and 39% on smartphones – suggests the new gaming medium could become big, fast.

The mainstream appeal of mobile gaming, with billions of downloads each year and games like Angry Birds reaching cult status, means mobile gaming could become a key avenue for getting AR in everyday use by millions of everyday people.

IGRESS

Google’s recently announced Ingress game for Android – where users play in the real world using an AR interface – has been extremely well received by the select few that were invited to play it before general release, with many suggesting it may be the first mobile AR app to see true success.

The success of mobile gaming can be attributed to a few defining features that are shared by augmented reality. Like a new toy, it’s flashy and pretty at first glance with simple applications that are easy to use and extremely accessible. For very little investment from the user, an entire library of mobile games can be carried around in their pocket ready for play whenever they choose. The same mix of attraction-of-the-new and accessibility applies to the games’ augmented counterparts.

Beyond the expansive mobile gaming audience, console gamers are also a ripe demographic for emerging technologies as they’re young, tech savvy and open to new approaches.

A potential disruption to traditional console gaming is on the horizon with Microsoft’s rumoured Xbox 720 (as it’s informally known), which will provide the first AR console gaming.

A patent document leaked earlier this year outlines the planned incorporation of AR into the new generation of Xbox. Image recognition software will react to a typical livingroom context, projecting 3D images for gamers to interact with. The console is likely to be released in 2013 retailing at $299, making an affordable AR product that will be sold into the homes of what Microsoft predicts to be 100 million gamers.

The same document reveals Microsoft’s intention to utilise Kinect Glasses for 3D augmented reality play, and 4G connectivity from 2014, which will liberate gamers from the confines of the couch into real world scenarios and a truly immersive digital-physical experience.

A head-mounted device would give the player a first person perspective, allowing them to embody their character to a degree not previously possible creating an all-encompassing second life reality that would be intriguing enough to appeal to masses of consumers – gamers or not – and lead to extreme shifts in behaviour as our digital and physical worlds, and selves, unite.

If worried parents think video games lead to violent behaviour now, imagine an illegal AR version of Grand Theft Auto finding its way into their child’s hands. Psychologically and sociologically, the repercussions of role-playing with this level of immersion will present all kinds of challenges and will be the source of as much debate as entertainment.

As gaming reaches this level of complexity, film and television will likely follow suit. Real people could become characters, interacting with eachother and contributing to the narrative, taking reality TV to a whole new level. The implications for the adult entertainment industry will be even more overawing. I’ll leave you with that to ponder on…

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Alexandra Dunn The Cloud and Compass Alexandra Dunn
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