Immersive Interaction

As we look to the future of interaction, we have to consider the eventual realization of so-called virtual reality, virtual environments like Second Life, and game worlds, where innovations in visualization, simulation and visual entertainment combine to create screen-based realms that offer their own rich brand of immersion. In these environments, interactivity is driven by real-time responsiveness and, in the finest examples, reward systems that encourage innovation and creativity.

Game designer Will Wright is an important figure in the game world. As the creator of The Sims games, he has successfully leveraged the technology to create “toys” that teach, entertain and inspire. Lately, he has been working on a new game that allows players to create working models of the universe, taking the “doll house” concept of Sims to cosmic levels. Watch this video about this new project, called “Spore,” and pay special attention to Wright’s views of the power of games as teaching tools.

Then post a response to the video here, explaining how interactivity sits at the heart of Wright’s and other game designer’s’ creations. How does this level of interactivity define these game experiences? Could these kinds of experiences existed ten, or even five, years ago? Where do you see this all going?

Here’s the video

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7 Responses to “Immersive Interaction”

  1. Janus Rogerson Says:

    After watching this video I can honestly say that these designers’ games would be nothing without interactivity. Every bit of knowledge they would want the users to gain from the experience would be somewhat lost without the interactive component. I’m not saying they wouldn’t learn anything but the experience and knowledge gained would definitely be stunted.

    By giving users the ability to design their own creatures and planets it gives users a special connection to the game that wouldn’t necessarily exist if these items were created for them. That was the whole power of the SIMS game. Here you created a virtual person, built their house and chose their occupation. Some users, mostly kids, designed these people after themselves and what they wanted to do with their own lives. It is hard to let something that close to you die or starve. In the case of the game Spore, I believe this type of interaction of being able to create my own creature would give me compassion for it and I would want to do what I could to protect it. However there is that opportunity to experiment and see what would happen if (to use the example in the video) you increased green house gases. The effects would be seen almost instantly and maybe seeing the destruction it would cause in a virtual world would make users aware of what harm it could do to our own planet. This may cause users to make changes in their everyday lives to prevent that type of destruction from happening to us.

    I don’t think I could see these types of experience existing 5 to 10 years ago. They may have been able to develop a game with a similar concept but the shear magnitude of these games (I don’t believe) could have been replicated back then. When it comes to the future of these games I see a double-edged sword emerging. On one side these games could aid in the study of science for users. They could experiment with the virtual world and find ways to improve it or at least avoid some kind of destructive pattern that would benefit our real planet. However there is this other side where the games could become so life like that the user loses his or her grip on reality. We have already heard about people who have become so involved with video games that they didn’t eat and ended up dying of starvation. They were living in the virtual world so long that they forgot their needs in the actual world. You have also heard of kids killing because they were replicating some kind of activity on a game. The only dilemma to that is real people cannot be reborn. If we go too far in the virtual world we have to face the problem that some people will not want or know how to live outside of it.

  2. Hillary Stoker Says:

    First off this game is so cool! I loved the Sims when I was younger, but this Spore game is even cooler. I like the educational aspect of the game, as well as the numerous choices a player has. You are basically creating your own universe, which is totally fun. I think that Spore gives you a lot more control than the Sims game, which in turn makes it more interactive. I like that users will learn about evolution and the universe and I understand what Wright is saying about thinking ahead. However we don’t know how things are going to be in 1000 years. No one can tell the future so I don’t think it is fair or accurate for this game to say how our futures will turn out. I understand that Spore is just a game and not reality, but for younger children this game could be very misleading.
    I didn’t start playing the Sims until I was around 14 and although I think it would have been nice to have them earlier in my childhood, I also think that I would have missed out on a lot of important experiences. Children that play computer games instead of playing outside or playing role playing games are missing out on human interaction that is important in building character and personality. I am not sure where or what games like the Sims or Spores will lead to. I think that interactive and virtual reality can be helpful to different professions and organizations, while at the same time providing an avenue of fun for the everyday users. However I also believe that they are limiting human interactions that are important in our development as a species.

  3. Shenee Howard Says:

    First of all, Will Wright is adorable. He is one of the cutest men I have ever seen in my life. I think that in making his games, Wright always has interactivity in mind. I loved when he said that instead of the user being luke skywalker, they get to be George Lucas. I really like the idea of games that really promote creativity. I think that is what essentially sets Wright apart from other “toy” makers. He wants to let let the player create their own world and their own rules. In a traditional game like Halo or Pacman, you are restricted to the world that is given to you. This talk reminded me of the make your own level on my 3D pac-man game. I remember spending over a hour making this new level and forcing my sister to play it. I think that this type of game is a lot more valuable then the traditional type of game. I also liked when he said that he wants to introduce a type of learning that isn’t so much telling as it is discovering and figuring things out on your own
    I think that these types of experiences can be created in the most simpliest forms. The concept of learning through “creating” isn’t all about advanced technology. The Lemmings game has a similar premise. You create and guide these “lemmings” through a world you create. I am pretty sure that game is almost 10 years old. Simple paint PC applications are another example of a type of “game” that allows you to create without rules.
    I am really interested in learning and interactivity for the benefit of education. I know that all lot of people are resistant of this type of learning and want to stop kids for turning to technology for learning purposes. In some cases, I agree. I am not a huge fan of these interactive worlds that give a user another life. I know people who don’t have a real life but a avatar on second life. They use these worlds as a primary way of socializing. I think that the big difference between Wright’s games and these new 2nd life applications is that its more learning than escaping from life. I think that if we use Will Wright’s idea of learning through doing, these interactive games are working to their best ability.

  4. Eryn Gradwell Says:

    Interactivity is the focal point of Will Wright’s entire game of “Spore.” He said himself during his presentation that this game allows users to create their own creatures and discover things that they would have never even imagined. Modern game designers focus on the amount of interactivity that the users and participants carry, which in turn makes the game more desirable among these users. The more power that the user has over the game, the more likely the game will be demanded.

    I think that these experiences existed about five years ago. When I was younger, I used to be obsessed with Roller Coaster Tycoon. It is a game similar to the Sims; however, you build your entire theme park. You create your own rides, set the prices for food and entertainment, hire workers and entertainers, and basically run the entire park (it’s basically the “spore universe” but just within a theme park.)

    Unfortunately, I see all of this developing technology as a start of what will soon become an entirely virtual world. Going to the simulation demonstration really opened my eyes in that there may come a time where nobody leaves their house! Just think, if we all had one of those in our houses that connected with everyone else, we wouldn’t have to leave our house to go to church. We wouldn’t have to get off of our couches to go to work or go to school. All of this is a very powerful thing, but I just hope we use it wisely in years to come.

  5. Bethany Swanson Says:

    Wow, what a cool game. I think, as Janus posted, that interactivity is at the heart of this game – the player becomes god, as Wright said. They control and interact with absolutely every aspect and level of the toy, it is truly of their creation. Their actions are dependent on the system, just as the system is dependent on their actions to control the game – it is the definition of interactivity, two-way communication at its finest and frankly, at its coolest.

    I thought it was so interesting what he was saying about needing to recalibrate our sense of understanding of long-term planning. It was incredible to watch him destroy that planet in about 8 seconds time, something it’s taken humans (though fairly unknowingly) billions of years. This idea of using play to facilitate knowledge is also at the very heart of interactivity. In doing, you’re far more likely to obtain knowledge of something rather than just information. In obtaining knowledge of the natural world through this game, players are able to better grasp their impact on the planet, as well as basic concepts of life, evolution and planetary functions.

  6. Lauren Kelly Says:

    I really enjoyed this video and mainly Wright’s view on toys as teaching tools. Adding and interactive element to games such as Spore, allows children to explore their own principles, experience consequence and shape reality. Giving the user the option to create their own life form and universe causes people to explore so much more than if they were just a player in a world already created with them. Wright notes that with this type of “toy” the user becomes less of a “Luke Skywalker” and more of a “George Lucas.”

    Another interesting point that Wright brought up was his desire to change the way people think about things long-term. He points out that humans cannot calibrate decisions by thinking ‘what would happen in 50 or 100 years’ but only think of things short-term. For that reason I do not think these kinds of experiences could have existed five or ten years ago in a simulated toy. However with flight simulators ten years ago, the user did experience failure based learning. In the future, I see interactivity definitely continuing to accelerate the learning process among children. The entire school system could even have interactive elements to teach students at their own pace.

  7. Scott Lauer Says:

    Spore looks awesome. Based on previous interactive games like The Sims it is really amazing how quickly we have come to this level. I think it is really cool how a user is really getting to a point of “playing god” where they control literally everything including evolution possibilities. It is cool to see a game where pollution comes into play making decisions have really charged consequences, such as creating smog or drying an ocean rather than run of the mill “game over” screens. I also think its really cool how well the character modeling seems to be streamlined, as Wright mentioned these things would normally take Pixar or someone using Maya hours or even weeks, but this makes the manipulation of graphics interesting and simple. I know Wright mentioned that alien species are more interesting, but truthfully I feel if this game were human based it would run into many problems such as creating environments that kill masses of people, this may become too much for some users. Like others have mentioned it is really interesting the way Wright looks at a program like this as a toy, because it shows he is really trying to reach out to a younger generation to inspire them to live in an immersing, responsible, interactive world. I feel this game may later be viewed as the start of the true age of interactivity, and much like Wright I am very excited to see how things progress over the next 10-15 years.

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