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From the College of Natural Sciences
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Six Predictions about the Future of Gaming from a Computer Scientist

Six Predictions about the Future of Gaming from a Computer Scientist

In honor of National Video Game Day (Sept. 12), we sat down with Dr. Paul Toprac, who leads the Games and Mobile Media Application (GAMMA) program at the University of Texas at Austin, to discuss the positives, negatives, misconceptions and future of gaming technology.

Still image from the "The Calm Before," a first-person adventure game developed at the University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Paul Toprac, associate professor of instruction, computer science.
1. We'll see video games used more 

often as tools for learning and possibly behavior modification.

Paul Toprac: It turns out that humans learn through play. The lower the stress level that you put on students, and the more that you make learning play-like, the more that the students learn and retain. The best way of learning is through failure, and that's what simulations and games allow you to do, is to fail without hurting yourself or anyone else. It also becomes very memorable. Your emotions are invested in it and you can see the consequences of your actions in real time.

I'm working on two games right now. One is about dune erosion for second graders. They learn about erosion and scientific concepts, and they can take different steps to affect the environment and learn about the effects on life near the dunes. I'm building a similar one with coral reefs.

When it comes to motivation and changing behavior, that's harder. We can hopefully change behavior through games, but it's very hard to measure. Most importantly, someone has to really want to change that behavior. There's some really interesting work being done with adding virtual reality and it shows a lot of promise

2. Virtual reality will play an ever-growing role in skill-building.

Toprac: Virtual reality is going to continue to expand quickly, particularly for training purposes and beyond. The real world has constraints of space and the virtual world does not. For example, you could have a hundred medical students practicing the same procedure at the same time, over and over, whereas before, they could only practice a few at a time.

3. The military, EMS and every-day people will harness augmented reality's power.

Toprac: I think the bigger wave right behind VR is augmented reality. This is where the tech goes with us out in the real world, like glasses that project information for users. The tech isn't quite there yet, but in five years, you'll see people everywhere wearing AR glasses. It provides the opportunity for customized experiences and games and, of course, things that are helpful for people. It's all run by the same game engines used in video games, and the game developer skill set carries over to that.

Augmented reality glasses are clearly a battlefield tool of the future, too, that military leaders will use. Being able to view changing situations in real time is extremely valuable. I could see the technology being used by first responders as well.

4. We'll continue to see more diversity in games.

Toprac: Representation matters. And personalization is huge for gamers. Research shows that if you personalize something, it's going to be more memorable for users. It can be more expensive to create female characters or ethnically diverse characters, but it's not that hard to do. Overall, I think games have a wider emphasis on representation than movies do and that's going to continue to increase.

5. More people will recognize gaming gets an unfair bad rap (e.g., video gaming addiction being added to the World Health Organization's list of diseases, people linking violence in games to real-life violence, etc.).

Toprac: Those who become obsessed with games to the point that it is detrimental to their everyday lives—that's a tiny percentage of people. People are concerned about someone playing 30 hours of games a week: "You should be doing other things with your life." Well, that's a value judgment. Would you say the same thing about someone who was watching movies or reading books 30 hours a week? Somehow, games have become taboo.

In terms of violence, longitudinal studies show there is not an increase in violent behavior among gamers in real-world situations. There are hundreds of millions of gamers worldwide. If there was causality there, you'd have massive levels of violence. …Violent video games don't make us violent.

6. For at least a little while longer, the popular game Fortnite is going to stay popular.

Toprac: It's fun, first of all. Not only does it have the ability to destroy things, you can build things, too. You can affect the environment and that's a very cool part of the game. It's cool to be playing with a whole bunch of other people at the same time. It depends on the ability to communicate with other players. There's also that personalization aspect that people like. 

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Tuesday, 28 March 2023

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