By Cliff Bellamy
CHAPEL HILL -- The stereotype of video game players as young, brainy loners -- usually male -- no longer applies, two directors of game design companies told an audience during a panel discussion at UNC on Wednesday.
And a generation that has grown up with computers and video games since early childhood is now showing an ability to use software in different ways.
Both developments have implications for the future of games.
Chad Dezern, studio director at Insomniac Games' Durham office; and Alex Macris, co-founder, president and CEO of Themis Group and cofounder and president of Triangle Game Initiative, discussed the future of games in a panel titled "The Ubiquity of Games." The panel was part of the events held Wednesday during Collaborations: Humanities, Arts and Technology, also known as the CHAT Festival.
Macris started the session by dispelling some assumptions about gamers.
The Entertainment Software Association reports that 68 percent of American households play computer or video games. The average player is now 35 years old and has played for 12 years. Forty percent of all game players are women.
Still, the game industry often is mired in the idea that most gamers are college age, Dezern said. The range in the types of games that might appeal to different audiences "is just now starting to expand," he said. People who play games now are no longer tied exclusively to a console or some other platform, which is changing the way artists and directors approach new games, he said.
The growth of gaming in the wider population is reflected in social networking sites. Macris runs escapistmagazine.com, which allows users to earn badges and other achievements. Some users have started to write strategy guides for the site, he said. Macris and Dezern also briefly discussed the surprising popularity of FarmVille, an online game that allows users to "farm" with their friends.
People now in their 20s who have grown up using software are making connections between different kinds of software that were unimaginable years ago, Dezern said. This ability to move back and forth between programs "seems to be unique for people in their early 20s," he added. The implications of that ability are still an unknown, Dezern said.
Macris said the younger computer generation is good at multitasking, and sifting through information they get in e-mail and other media. "I think we're breeding this race of super-children," Macris joked.
Here are some other points made during the discussion:
- Game designers of the future will continue eliminating
"the boundaries between formats," Dezern said.
- Both Macris and Dezern stressed the need to get away
from games and set time limits for children who play
them. More games also will be designed that do not
require a long time to play.
- More games may stress social cooperation, rather than