Gamescom’16: Games of the future

Summ()n is not a game design agency per se, but the topics of games and play (and many collaterals, such as ‘serous games’ and gamification) are very central to what  we do. At the end, we suggest that the only way to deal with the futures is to play with them!

Gamescom, the annual exhibition/ trade fair of games in Cologne, one of the largest events of this kind in the world, is thus an obvious attractor for us. We were visiting this expo almost every year when Summ()n existed (missing only 2010, if I remember). The event always serves a source of information about the latest developments and trends, a source of new inspirations for our own games, and o course simply a source of fun 🙂

This year we went to Gamescom again, but didn’t manage to write about it here in our blog, being very busy with preparations of our Future Probing sessions here in Eindhoven. Perhaps, a bit retroactively, but I would like to share some of the impression from this event:

One of the most striking things this year was of course VR: it was everywhere:

Games that use VR/AR were present at this show before, too, but this year we’ve seen an avalanch of new games (or old games revamped with the use of VR. Speaking about ‘avalanches’, there was even a game that simulated rock-climbing:

This VR presence made the atmosphere of event very in other way, too. I’ve never seen so many of these separated spaces (“cages”) where people would be placed to experience their ‘virtual worlds’. Of course, they are needed to protection, but they also make this looking very alienating (and sometimes literally alien).

Pokemons. Of course, there were Pokemons, too! Of all forms and shapes, digital and otherwise.

Cosplay was everywhere, too. But this year it was ‘toothless’, so to speak. Because of the tightened security measures, people were not allowed to wear any ‘weapons’, even if overtly toyish ones. So, not only no ‘soldiers’, ‘assassins’ or ‘stormtroopers’, but also no ‘mages’ or ‘wizardesses’.  ‘Jokers’ were still allowed.

All the largest blockbuster titles were there too, of course – but this information can be easily found in numerous reviews around the web. Large gaming companies are already huge and well-oil machines capable to run colossal PR campaigns.

 

We did have a look, and spoke with a few fans, but overall these large titles are too noisy and crowdy to hang around.

The only exception is Blizzard, perhaps, still a world on its own. We managed to play Legion which was not yet offically released yet by then (it is now),

and Overwatch, the latest meteorite on the current gamescape, an incredibly popular team-vs-team game (popular NOT only because of its oversexified heroines; thought that factor contributes to the success, too).

 

As I said, there were many more large and medium-size game-worlds presented at the expo, but as I also said, it’s not exactly our business to write reviews about all them. What was interesting to spot is some meta-themes, or interesting twitches.

Speaking of which, Twitch is of course one of those. Technically speaking not even a game, Twitch this year occupied a huge area, perhaps one fifth of the one of largest exhibition halls. For everyone who is ‘in the bubble’, it is clear why, yet I struggle to explain the colossal role of this service in the gaming world today.

Twitch is smaller than YouTube (this service boasts having ‘only’ 10 million daily users), Twitch is nevertheless N1 channel of the real-time streaming videos from hundreds and hundreds of game worlds. As such, it is already more a social (lifestyle) phenomena than.

We spotted another interesting twist, albeit of a very different nature, at the booth of Gwent, a new game from the creators of the Witcher.

If you don’t follow the gaming industry, neither of these names would tell you much. Witcher is a phenomenally popular game, not as huge as Skyrim or other similar medieval fantasy game, but engaging enough to create its own cult of the followers. What was making this game different is its less black&white ethics.

Now,Gwent was originally just a small part of the Witcher, a imaginary card game played inside another game. This year Projekt RED, the company behind Witcher, has decided to develop a separate spin-off game – and apparently already quite successful!

 

It’s all impressive and stuff, but we traditionally find the most interesting things in the obscure corners and less popular halls, where you can find the games developed by indies, young and small companies who are experimenting with everything: gameplay, animation, graphical style, and what not:

From stupid not so sophisticated yet very funny party games

… to very high-brow games to ‘discover your futures’ (and that’s very close to what we do!)

… one can find tons of interesting things here!  But then again, by simply showing a picture or two we can’t explain the beauty and originality (or stupidity and superficiality) of these games. Each of them would require a posting, or better even a clip to show the game in its dynamics.

Shall we also migrate to Twitch?

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