John Romero is a veteran who has been making games for more than three decades and throughout that span he’s often seen history repeat itself. During his presentation at the GameON Ventures conference in Toronto, Romero highlighted a few of the patterns he’s spotted in his time with some existing solely within the industry while some dealing with the industry’s relationship to the larger society.
Romero’s has certainly considered the latter factor at quite an extent, as his shooter game Doom became the centerpiece of the mid-’90s political posturing over video game violence, alongside the likes of Mortal Kombat and Night Trap. Romero stated that similar frenzy had surfaced every now and again in past times with other forms of entertainment that attracted the youth, such as comics, heavy metal, and Dungeons & Dragons. While he waved away any concerns regarding games contributing to violence, he did suggest another root cause..
“I believe games are cultural and the violence that we see in the world goes beyond games,” Romero said. “Plenty of countries play games. Canada, Germany, Japan, England, Ireland… They’re all hardcore consumers of games, yet we don’t see similar outbreaks of violence in these countries. It’s not the game, it’s the gun. It’s not the computer, it’s the culture. It’s not the player.”
“When we push the boundaries of games, when we experiment with the medium to see what it can do, there are always those who will question if the new work at the end is still within the boundary…”
A lot of gamers will undoubtedly agree with Romero’s point of view that games don’t contribute to violence, but there might be some dispute when it comes to another pattern he acknowledged.
“Recently the question of ‘What is a game?’ has surfaced,” Romero said. “Computer games weren’t games according to people who played board games back in the ’70s. While console games were not games according to computer game players in the ’80s… As we expand the boundary of games, people question whether it’s a game at all. Is Gone Home a game? Is Life is Strange a game? Is Her Story a game? Yes, I think they are. When we push the boundaries of games, when we experiment with the medium to see what it can do, there are always those who will question if the new work at the end is still within the boundary, when in fact it has just pushed it.”
He also highlighted a third pattern for the crowd which was the prevalence of games as a social activity. Before the arrival of the desktop computer, games were generally multiplayer. From chess and checkers to baseball and basketball, playing games meant interacting with others. Unfortunately the first few years of the home computer overflowed with single-player games.
“Doom came at the right time, when local area networking was emerging and modems were everywhere,” Romero noted. “Doom broke the single-player spell of the previous 20 years since the start of computer gaming.”
As for the future of gaming , Romero believes they will get even more social, inspired partly by the arrival of augmented reality and the continuing rise of mobile games. Pokemon Go is a great example of that future already taking some shape, but Romero has made some more future predictions.
“I believe procedural generation is going to reach a more impressive level as programmers and designers apply and discover more advanced techniques, such as machine learning. Procedural synthesis [of graphics] might be implemented in popular engines as plug-ins much in the way SpeedTree handles foliage generation.”
“I still believe that games have to have great designs to be successful. Tech by itself is not enough, but great tech combined with great design is a huge win. So what does all this great technology and design mean? It means what it has always meant. We’re going to continue to have more amazing games. It means ‘Game On.'”
What do you guys make of Romero’s views? Let us know in the comments.
Keywords: Doom, John Romero