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Immersion in Gaming: Why Video Games Need PC/Console
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These days, it would seem that not everyone agrees that modern gaming is moving exclusively towards mobile. It’s a fair stance to take. If it wasn’t true, why would new “traditional” consoles matter to anyone? They’d all be on their mobile devices instead, right? There’s definitely still a nicely-sized market for console gaming. But as with any technology, it isn’t likely that it will fare too well without some sort of “stepped up” innovation. Recently, every major console has tried to do this with motion controls (Microsoft Kinect, PlayStation Move, Nintendo Wii) – but perhaps being able to spread your arms out to block soccer balls isn’t convincing enough of a differentiator for hardcore gamers. No, those people are looking for immersion. They’re looking to get completely lost in an experience every time they play.

Kinect Action shot

Let’s face it: this works best for people who aren’t used to controllers. Ironically, those with broken thumbs from years of analog stick game play however, aren’t that interested.

Now, this isn’t to say that motion controls have no place in modern gaming. The Oculus Rift for example, helps to prove otherwise, by using head motion to guide the player through 3D space in virtual reality reminiscent of 90s arcade game halls. There’s some great buzz around this potential product – with a little over $1.4M funded into it as of this writing.

With innovation in display resolutions as well, such as ‘gigapan’ 33+ megapixel video (yes, you read correctly. For reference, current 720p HD is about 0.9MP) being showcased for the 2012 London Olympics, there’s some serious potential to up the ante on living room console gaming. Of course, that’s provided you have some sort of monster of a machine to run that type of rendering. Although, imagine playing a game designed to terrify (Amnesia, anyone?) on a display with such realistic rendering that you forget you’re playing a game. While I’m sure you’d probably wet yourself more than once – you’d probably also have a great time doing it.

Amnesia Title Screen

To understand immersion, try playing this game at midnight. Alone. With the lights off.

Maybe that’s what immersion in modern gaming should be about. Well, at least the part about having a great time. You just can’t bring that type of experience to mobile because of the nature of the devices’ hardware. There are therefore three hardware-based advantages that PC/console can bring to gamers – and presumably, some of the reasons ‘hardcore’ players keep coming back for more:

  1. Systems (game device, display, sound, input) that can provide the horsepower needed to run experiences with complex visuals, physics, artificial intelligence, etc.
  2. The ability to physically situate the player somewhere comfortable: which is arguably needed for extended play
  3. Compatibility with value-adding peripherals, like the Oculus Rift, to offer optional enhancements to gameplay

With more and more software and hardware innovations coming along, is this era really the death of the console, or just a new opportunity to revive it?

Let us know in the comments section below!