When I talk about Massively Multiuser Online Games, I'm very critical. I wrote a book about how horrible I thought they all were doing. Mostly because when you look at how their industry has grown, instead of taking full advantage of the social aspects and elements, and really trying to leverage the Internet for unique types of narration or storytelling, it seems like all the latest games have devolved into visual experiences that last a little while and then you get bored. The gameplay is centered on single-user experiences, 'instance dungeons' or whatever. There's not much of a need for me to go out and socialize, partner, collaborate or team up with other adventurers and try to reinvent stories or create my own stories. They consume the same static contents, very hack and slash. Of course it's very anecdotal to talk about geeks sitting in their basements, getting fat and playing games all night long.
With augmented reality and mobile we can take a lot of these game-like elements, pull them out and give them to people and get them working in their backyards. One of the compelling things about AR is what they call 'feature tracking' or 'visual tracking'. There's ways to take a video feed and track a person's body as they move around. If you were to buy a Logitech camera for your computer today, it comes with face-tracking software. You can put a duckbill or sunglasses on your head and you can move around and it stays there. AR and mobile AR can take that to another level, so I can effectively skin myself in graphics to look like an elf or an orc or like I'm wearing armour or whatever. Taking that a step further with gesture tracking and gesture interfaces I can do a fireball or I can manifest a virtual sword in my hand and track that.
So now suddenly, if I know where I'm at and where everybody else is at, and I have some basic information about my backyard and what's there, I can plot out something where I could play Counterstrike in the backyard against virtual terrorists or I can have flying dragons flying around, and we keep track of all of that, and now I have this multiuser experience I don't have elsewhere. How fun would it be to go to the local highschool football field and instead of playing a football game, playing a football game of giant robots with flamethrowers? That's achievable and doable in the next couple of years. It's like all the cool elements of online MMO games you can take out and stick in the backyard. Now you have people exercising, people learning new maneuvers. Maybe I really have to go and learn how to do martial arts or fencing, so I have a much more realistic experience on the field with other people.
Now we've come full circle to the whole socializing, networking and all the wonderful things we were promised with the Internet that we've never fully delivered on. We've got Facebook and Twitter and things like that, but when you have 20,000 friends or 2,000 followers or whatever you're still missing the importance of who your neighbours are or who you're going to work with. Twenty, thirty or forty years ago you'd have block parties all the time and who your neighbours were was important. If you got sick, your neighbours would take care of your kids. It was a non-issue. But today, how often do you really knock on your neighbour's door and say "hello, how are you doing" or "you guys wanna come over for lunch" or "listen to a podlog"? Our relationships have changed, but they may be recycling again with new technology.