Gaming, haptics, and arcades

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In April 2012 I attended a meeting of the NYC Gamers. The NYC Gamers had a panel discussion focused on the future of mobile gaming platforms: console, desktop, and mobile. The boundary between desktop and console platforms was ending because desktop computers have become quite powerful for a reasonable cost. The distinction between console and desktop gaming was ending because there is not much differentiation between processing power on either platform and both platforms can receive peripherals. Also, what shocked the traditional gaming industry is the immense growth of the low-power mobile platform, which has seen phenomenal growth. Many game startups have displaced the large game houses after iPhone (2007) and subsequent smartphones and tablets came to market. The panel, though, was ambivalent towards the future direction on the mobile platform. One of the folks at Zynga said he would not invest in mobile games unless they were platform products. The panel concluded with a discussion of where they saw the future direction of games: peripherals.

As a personal note, I heard about the excitement of mobile games from my friends in Waterloo in 2007: Tomas A. and Jimmy H. started a company to capitalize growth in this area.

Next I met up with Jennifer R. A., who is a resident of New York City. We continued the the panel discussion with what we saw in peripherals, which provides a haptic experience. The next big thing is to move away from keyboard-and-mouse interaction and experience the gaming experience through haptics. Nintendo, for example, has been able to identify this area appropriate and capitalize on this gaming experience with the Wii, numchuck, and steering wheel. Using peripherals in the gaming experience, however, is not a new concept: as shown in movies such as Tron, arcades were once the centre for the gaming experience. Arcades had all the peripherals one could ever imagine. (I haven’t frequented a lot of arcades myself).

Then we asked why aren’t there that many arcades around now? Jennifer explained to me how arcades over time drew in a undesirable crowd. They were dark and crowded. Parents thought they were unsafe to hang out. And, so the decline of the arcade. As a cultural reference, Tron portrays the arcade in the same way. The few remaining places to find arcades are in New York City’s Port Authority, Peter Pan Arcade in Queens, and another possibly in Brooklyn/Queens [e-mail discussion]. In Calgary, the downtown arcade in Eau Claire has closed and the only one I know of is in the airport. In Toronto, the Asian community has an arcade where my cousin frequents using old Japanese arcade imports. A question that stems from this observation: why arcades still exist in transit terminals?

Then, I mentioned a counterexample. Japan’s arcades are doing just fine. We discussed why this might be the case. For one, to address the safety issue, some arcades in Japan are bright and uncrowded with attendants in the front who can see through the whole place. Places such as this are often frequented by teenage girls to use the photo booths. There are also the traditional arcades, which are smoke-filled, crowded, and dark. These arcades are frequented by men, or guys who take their girlfriends out. These places are significantly less comfortable to be in.