With the rise of casual gaming on Facebook, iPhone and iPad I found myself worrying about the future of game audio. I don’t doubt that audio will still remain an important part of games, but the shift onto internet and mobile gaming will have a negative effect on audio capabilities.
On Saturday the 26th of March I attended the Game in Scotland recruitment fair. There were a number of interesting discussions and lectures but most of the speakers seemed to hold the opinion that casual gaming is the future and consoles are on their way out with AAA gaming narrowed down to only a few big developers at best. At first this worried me as – if gaming is focused towards iPhone, Facebook or the like – the first sacrifice will probably be to audio, owing largely to the amount of memory and CPU power needed to create some of the fantastic audio we have been hearing in AAA games of the last half a decade. With technology improving at a staggering rate, I always imagined a future of hyper-realistic gaming with audio that fully immerses the player in the environment. If what these guys were saying is true, this future could be unrealistic. The fact of the matter is that most game designers obviously put the art and animation far above audio. One of the speakers, when I spoke to him personally, actually said “I’m not sold on audio in games, I just don’t think it’s important.” He went on to say that people want to be able to play games while watching T.V or listening to their own music. After some of the epic masterpieces I’ve played in the last few years, is this dumbing down and simplifying really the future of games?
Thankfully, I really don’t think it is. The fact of the matter is that most of Dundee’s developers are small studios that develop solely for mobile devices. This is totally understandable just now and I can see how they think the future is casual and mobile from a business perspective. It makes more business sense to develop games that will appeal to everyone and not just full on gamers, especially after the disaster with Realtime Worlds. But these people need to remember that before casual gaming there were still gamers! The difference with casual gamers is that most of the Angry Birds or Farmville players probably wouldn’t describe themselves as gamers like console gamers would. These gamers still exist today, in fact the last generation of console gamers has been the biggest and – even if the numbers don’t grow at the same rate as the last decade – I sincerely doubt they will shrink. When the casual gaming market becomes saturated which – like almost any market growing at that speed – it will, developers will see that it is just like any other game development.
As much as making money and selling lots and lots is important, developers need to see games not just as a product that needs to be sold, but as an ever growing opportunity for expression. Taking the easy route to big bucks is not the attitude gamers want in game development. The key is in the word develop. Just look at the top 3 definitions on dictionary.com. Says it all really! Development should apply in the games themselves, not the marketing strategy.