Computer Games: The Next 30 Years

By Rob Enderle March 16, 2015

I started playing computer games in the 1980s and they pretty much sucked.  There were the text games which didn’t even give you an image to work from just a description and you had to guess the nearly the exact sentence to use to proceed through the game.  Then there was my first side scrolling game, Red Barron, which was actually rather fun but visually left much to the imagination.   This week is NVIDIA’s GPU conference and I spent some time getting ready by looking at images of the games that were around when I started playing, and compared them to the visually rich, near photorealistic games we have today; I kind of wonder why anyone would have played those older games.  

I imagine 30 years from now we’ll look back and someone like me, hell it might even still be me, will wonder about the games of today like I’m now wondering about the games of the 1980s.  Let’s jump ahead to 2045 and take a look at what gaming will look like then.

Inside the Action

We can see the progress now, we went from imagining the action to actually having a decent window into it.  I expect by 2045 we’ll be in the middle of the action, surrounded on all sides by a photorealistic world with active physics and resolutions at a level that will make this gaming virtual world indistinguishable from the real world.  

In fact, as Microsoft recently demonstrated with their Hololens the real and the virtual should be mixed so you can physically be in a room that exists in the real world with things you can touch, but they’ll appear game consistent.  So your glass of milk will look like a Viking glass of magical elixir, your table like a dead stuffed dragon, and your floor like a window into an alien world.  

In this future world the difference between what is real and virtual will be forever blurred. 


With the work being done with prosthetics we should be able to put you into a sleep state, where your arms and legs don’t move on command, and then interface you more directly to your game avatar—kind of like what was done in the movie Avatar.  The rate of advancement in this area largely as a result of a high medical focus on giving crippled soldiers back their mobility and independence has been impressive this decade, and we are talking 30 additional years of this progress. 

With touch feedback, we could provide a solution that was indistinguishable from the old Star Trek Holodeck but without solving that pesky energy to matter problem or having to invent Holographic Projectors

The real question is whether we’ll be able to interface directly with the optical nerve which has been one of the big areas of focus.  Technology to do this has been under development for over a decade.  But if we can bypass both the limbs and eyes we can create an immersive experience that rivals the movie The Matrix. 

Of course the biggest problem will likely be getting the virtual world to feel real, for this we’ll have to have a broad brain interface where wind or water on the skin, taste, and even smell can be emulated.  But once we are successful in connecting optical and muscle systems into computers it shouldn’t be that hard to make the jump to the all of the senses.  The question will be how long it will take so that the related surgery isn’t either too frightening or expensive.  Apparently we are close to doing the first head transplant but even though a lot of gamers might actually consider putting their head on a computer for a better gaming experience, I’m pretty sure their parents would nix the idea. 

AI Game Elements

With advances in Artificial Intelligence, it will be virtually impossible to tell if the others in a game with you are human or computer generated.  While this will likely do wonders for the porn industry, it will also make games not only far more realistic, but a ton more interesting and engaging.  Particularly when you think about the fact they can be any size, any sex, any species, or even made up of elements or energy.  Some argue we actually may have done this centuries ago and that the world we are currently in isn’t real.  

Wrapping Up:

We’ve come an incredibly long way since the 1980s, hell we’ve come a long way this decade. The rate of advancement continues to accelerate and it is estimated that the PlayStation 7, if performance continues to advance at the same massive rate, will be able to emulate as many as 10,000 humans, with full life histories, simultaneously.  

In that future time we may not take breaks to play games—we may take reality breaks, instead choosing to live in a virtual world the rest of the time.  In fact, it is estimated that by 2045 we could simply back ourselves up into a computer when we retire and live an eternity in a world of our choosing.  

At the NVIDIA GPU Developer’s conference this week I’ll be thinking about the future and wondering if I’m not already in it.  Given you may have a choice, you might want to start thinking of the future virtual world you’d like to live in.   

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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