David Perry is a computer programmer and game designer, originally from Belfast. He begins his talk showing photos from his childhood… and of his childhood computer, a Sinclair ZX80. (That’s the Timex Sinclair 1000 for the Americans in the crowd.) He points out that the Sinclair had 1k of memory – the eBay logo he shows next is 16k. An early flight simulator ran in 16k.
Perry has helped build hungreds of games, including the Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles game (“Tortugas Ninjas!”) and the recent cinema/videogame collaboration, “Enter the Matrix”.
Games are big business -$29 billion in 2006 and poised to overtake the music industry in 2008. 43% of gamers are female, and the average gamer is 30 – the people who buy the most games are 37 years old. While we hear a great deal about violent video games, 83% have no mature content.
Online gaming is also exploding. 5 million people play World of Warcraft – this generates $80 million a month, and has created $275 million in software sales for Blizzard. The online real estate market is valued at $800 million a year.
Perry shows us an astounnding video of the evolution of video games graphics, looking at different genres of games: basketball, Star Wars, fighting, wargames, first person shooters and driving games. The astounding evolution of technology aside, he tells us designers are less concerend these days with graphics and audio, but with questions like “Can video games make us feel? Make us cry?”
He screens an excellent video by a self-described video game addict Michael Highland. The film makes the point that his generation (my generation) has been trained to watch TV and feel – we feel the same way when we play video games. And we’re able to feel like we really can ride a snowboard, drive a racecar… or kill a man. He believes that these games are “beginning to make me feel”, and seems to believe that there are many times where the world of the game is more beautiful than the world he really lives in. He doesn’t see this as entirely bad – if games could make us care for one another, help one another, perhaps they can “brainwash” us in good ways.
(I’m not a video game addict, though I play more than I’d care to admit. The video’s especially powerful for me as everything on the soundtrack is something on heavy rotation on my iPod, a sure generational cue that the maker of the video isn’t too far from my age… Am I part of a generation of emerging videogame addicts? And what does this mean for us?)