During the first half of 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizons dominated the headlines of major media and became the most popular game of the year on the Amazon in the United States and Asia region. It has 310 million views on Weibo and 29.3k discussions, bringing 13.41 million sales of Switch to its parent company Nintendo in the first six weeks.
At the same time, by early 2020, the game Red Dead Redemption 2, published by Rockstar Games, has sold nearly 35 million copies. Another masterpiece that rivals it in popularity is GTA 5 which has gained more than 1 billion dollars in global sales.
So, what secrets are hidden behind these masterpieces that can allow them to continue attracting global players in this ever-changing trend, and make players willing to pay for such experiences again and again?
The answer to this secret lies in the essence of video game industry:
Video Game Interactivity
In fact, when we talk about Video Game Interactivity (VGI), each of us may have our own imagination. But how can we define Video Game Interactivity (VGI) more accurately? How can we understand its content and meaning? What kind of value can they bring to the whole game industry and how will the future develop? These are the questions we are going to explore and discuss in this article.
Based on a large amount of desk research and interviews, rct studio sorted out the following definitions and types of Video Game Interactivity:
After defining and categorizing VGI, we selected some popular games, conducted a systematic exploration of their VGI, and concluded that: generally viewed by the current video game market, VGI is mainly reflected in vision, hearing and perception. In terms of interactivity, the VGI in the game process is still in a stage of continuous development. Many game manufacturers have tried the “exploration” dimension. However, the part related with “AI” empowering Video Game Interactivity is not mature enough, especially on promoting the progress of plots and the interaction with intelligent NPC.
Besides, in the research, we have clarified the role and value of NPC in Video Game Interactivity, which leads to the improvement of video games’ reception in the market. Finally, by analyzing market data and industry trends, we can see that the market development of games and AI is showing a positive sign, with more and more game manufacturers participating in this transformation. Although the development of start-up video game companies is relatively in the early stage, the large number of participants also implied enthusiasm for future transformation in the gaming landscape. We believe that the interactivity of the next gaming entertainment will exhibit more and more positive changes.
In this report, we have launched a three-part discussion around Video Game Interactivity:
- In the first part, we summarized the definition and types of Video Game Interactivity (VGI) from the perspective of game developers, and explored the VGI in some games.
- In the second part, we converted the perspective to the player’s perspective, sorted out the interactive content of video games, and conducted simple online research on this basis; at the same time, we analyzed the interaction between NPC and player in RPG games, and made an analysis framework to understand the value of NPC.
- In the third part, we changed our perspective to the video game industry. Based on questionnaire surveys and our understanding of interactivity, we have imagined the future form of Video Game Interactivity; and meanwhile, based on the current game market scale, AI market scale and development in video game interactivity, as well as the exploration of AI by big game manufacturers, we are trying to view the future of Video Game Interactivity with a rational attitude. Finally, we discussed the future of Video Game Interactivity from a philosophical perspective.
Let’s get started.
Definition and types of Video Game Interactivity
Interactive content and experience of Video Games
- Interactive content and market research of video games
- Interaction between NPC and player in RPG games
- Value structure and analysis of NPC
The development and future of Video Game Interactivity
1. Definition and types of Video Game Interactivity
Before we discuss “interactivity”, we would firstly look into two English terms, “interaction” and “interactivity”. In the paper Interaction and Interactivity: In the Context of Digital Interactive Art Installation, Salah mentioned the main applications of “interaction” in social sciences, communication, media research and information technology, emphasizing the relationship among people, media and machines. The concept of “interactivity” extends from “interaction”, focusing more on the mutual flows of information between computers and their users. In video games, we usually use the term “interactivity”, because the interactivity of video games more reflects the direct connections between the computers and the users, and emphasizes the exchange of information.
Now we are discussing Video Game Interactivity (VGI) in a non-serious manner, what we talk about may be related with hardware devices connected to video games (mouse, keyboard, VR headset or more futuristic devices, etc.). It may also include the interactivity between the player and a certain plot in the game, or a scenario that the player has triggered some key elements in the game. These can all be called Video Game Interactivity (VGI), but they are still not enough to help us form a systematic cognition and understanding of Video Game Interactivity (VGI) , so in order to understand this concept more accurately, we need to step into the academic world of exploration. In fact, the academic community has not made too much attempts to conceptualize VGI, but René Weber gave a more precise definition in his paper “Measuring Interactivity in Video Games”:
we define VGI as (the possibility of) a continuous information exchange between the user and the game system and/or the possibility for users to manipulate the content and form of a video game
This definition conveys several messages:
- Describes the content, form and continuous information exchange status of players operating video games
- The word “possibility” indicates that interactivity is a process with fully dynamic changes and unlimited imagination spaces
Furthermore, on the top of this definition, René Weber designed a scale to measure VGI from different dimensions, and conducted exploratory factor analysis (EFA) on the scale through group experiments. In order to make the conceptual framework more effective for analyzing the list of existing games on the market, rct studio divides VGI into two main dimensions:
- General VGI
- Play-related VGI
1.1 General VGI
In the general sense, players interact with the game through user interfaces and input devices (such as keyboards, mice, or controllers, etc.). Here, the VGI we are talking about is similar to the meaning we discussed at the beginning. Video Game Interactivity at this level mainly discusses the interactivity between the corresponding hardware devices of the video games and the players. That is, how the player can play the game through the hardware device of the video game to get the experience of game entertainment.
By combing through the changes in the history of video games, we can also see how General VGI has changed.
Arcade, the world’s first coin video game machine for business, was born in 1971.
The first arcade machines used joysticks, buttons and knobs as the main interactive input methods. The output methods mainly used screens of arcade machines to display the player’s game status and created the atmosphere through realistic sound effects. Currently, arcade games have more multiple interactive methods, which can be tailored according to different contents. For example, racing games can be equipped with steering wheels, foot brakes and throttles; music and dancing games can be equipped with specially-made stage and somatosensory systems; shooting games can add light guns, etc. The output mode could also be more diversified, adding a variety of advanced outputs such as stereo, vibration feedback, motion feedback, etc., which can satisfy the player’s multi-sensory experience and is more immersive.
Home video game console
From the first generation of home game consoles (1972): Odyssey, to currently the eighth generation of home game consoles (2017): Nintendo Switch; there is a 45-years development between Sony PS Pro and Microsoft Xbox One X. At the beginning of games, there were only movable light spots, without any sound, graphics and text, while the latest game consoles can carry 3D games, higher image and sound quality.
The interactivity between home game console and video game player is mainly based on the game controller. Player operates the game controller and sends instructions by pressing the buttons, then the game console displays the instructions on the TV after receiving the instructions, while the game characters execute corresponding instructions and the game content changes accordingly.
Handheld game player
Handheld games originated in 1976, when Mattel developed a series called Mattel Electronics Handheld Games. In 1980, Nintendo created the world’s first handheld game player with LCD screen, called Game & Watch (43.4 million sales). The introduction of LCD screens makes the display of this handheld game player more vivid. In 1983, Nintendo introduced an improved version of Game & Watch. Since then, the combination of the cross key and the AB key together with the Nintendo FC established the prototype of the video game console and became the well-deserved originator.
The uniqueness of the handheld console is that it is a portable game console. Because of its special purpose, the handheld game console has a special interactive method. The handheld game console combines the screen and the buttons in a unified object. Player operates through the buttons and obtains information from the screen of it. Although this mode is not as interactive and smooth as the mode of the home game console, it satisfies the demand for entertainment experience anytime and anywhere.
Personal computer (PC) is a new form of entertainment with a computer as its operating platform, demonstrating the current high level of development of computer technology through the realization of human-computer interaction.
The interactive input method of personal computer (PC) games and players is mainly achieved through keyboard and mouse. Game players use the mouse and keyboard to give instructions to the game and play. After receiving the instructions, the computer will give feedback through the display screen and audio, letting players feel the behavior of the characters in the game are in accordance with their own operations.
VR is a brand-new practical technology developed in the 20th century. It uses computer simulation to generate a three-dimensional virtual world, providing users with a simulation of vision and other sensory organs. It makes users feel as if they are immersed in the environment and can instantly observe things in three-dimensional space without any restrictions.
The interactive input mode between VR games and players is mainly carried out through the handle, buttons and the joystick, while the output mode mainly presents an immersive game scene to the player through the VR head-mounted device.
Based on the above, general Video Game Interactivity is mainly realized through the visual, auditory and perceptual interaction between the game and the player.
- The game system accurately conveys information to the player through visual elements; at the same time, it provides corresponding visual interaction functions to tell the player how to control, select, zoom and other operations; the player finds the rules of operation to play the game after obtaining the information and discovering the problem.
- The auditory interaction between the video and the player is shown in the game environment where the player is in, and there is a sound feedback in accordance with the player’s action, for example, the sounds of a game player walking on the grass and in a stream are quite different. The use of realistic sound effects plays a vital role in rendering the atmosphere of the game scene, guiding the player to interact with the environment and immersing themselves in the game.
- Somatosensory devices interact with the player’s perception and transmit information, using gestures, postures and body movements to input. It effectively improves the players’ subjective experience in the process of performing tasks; at the same time, it provides the output of corresponding motions and vibration feedback, helping players have a better gaming experience.
1.2 Play-related VGI
Play-related VGI could be categorized into the interaction with game setting and the interaction with game experience.
There are two dimensions when it comes to interaction with game settings: Feature-based interactivity and Character customization.
- Regarding the Feature-based interactivity dimension, players can modify game features to promote their gaming experience. For example, players can reduce the level of difficulty in the initial setup to maximize their gaming experience and enjoyment.
- Regarding the Character customization dimension, “character” refers to the entity that represents the player in the game. A “character” could be a character literally, such as an avatar that looks like a human being. It could also be an object, such as a car in a racing game. There is a climbing number of video games that have a higher degree of freedom for players to create and personalize their own character. For example, in RPG (role-playing games), players can personalize their role’s gender, appearance, weapon, skills, and even their personality attributes. In most cases, all these personalization may lead to a specific game experience since different characters have different fighting styles, different gender and appearances will also trigger different plots. Players could experience different lives through personalizing their characters (Bassiere, Seay, & Kiesler, 2007), their gaming experience can also be more immersive (Lewis, Weber, & Bowman, 2008; Trepte, Reinecke, & Behr, 2009). Character customization also helps transfer real-life social cognition to the virtual world, which makes the players act more naturally in gameplay (Trepte). In addition, players can customize their character to fit the requirements of the game ( Physical abilities, etc.) to increase their control over their gaming experience.
- The interaction of actual gaming experience mainly includes two dimensions: exploration and Artificial Intelligence.
- Exploration refers to the possibility of user interaction in the course of events and the unfolding of game narrative.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) describes the system’s response to player behaviors and the game’s ability to respond to player behaviors intelligently. AI can increase the challenge and competitiveness of the game, provide narrative development, or aid the players with NPC (Laird 2001). AI can provide a customized experience of interaction between players and NPC, they can continue to learn and adjust themselves according to their interaction with the players previously.
Based on the analysis above, the analysis framework of VGI is as below:
1.3 The exploration of VGI in games
The following would show three examples, using the analysis framework of VGI to find the interactivity in gaming.
- General VGI. The first releasing platforms of Cyberpunk 2077 on a global scale are: PC, PS4 and Xbox One, mainly through home game consoles and personal computers. Thus Cyberpunk 2077 mainly depends on the player’s sight and hearing for its interactivity with players, there are no other hardware devices that involve other senses.
- Play-related VGI.
Interaction with game settings
- Game feature interaction
- Players can adjust the level of difficulty to help them better participate in the game.
- Character customized interaction
- In the initial creation of the character, players could customize their character origins and “body types”.
Origin of the character (wanderer, punch kid, corporate employee, etc. ), different origins of characters trigger different opening tasks, it also affects the dialogue options in the gaming process.
Body types refer to appearances and gender, that is if the character appears to be male or female. Choosing “body type” instead of “gender” is the trend of Western 3A games in recent years. The purpose is to be committed to diversity and inclusion.
After determining the body type, more detailed character customization is carried out, for example, the character’s tone of voice, tattoos, piercings, scars, and hairdo.
All these characteristics will affect the subsequent interactive dialogue with the NPC.
3. The interaction of actual game experience
- The player is the protagonist in the dialogue, not a bystander. Cyberpunk 2077 uses an interactive dialogue system to maximize the player’s executable actions in the dialogues.
- If a character shows hostility, players could react with hostility or show good intentions. It all depends on the players’ choice.
- Will offer AI teammates to assist players in the game.
Detroit: Become Human
- General VGI. The first releasing platforms of Detroit: Become Human on a global scale are: PS4, PC, mainly through home game consoles and personal computers. Detroit: Become Human largely depends on the player’s sight and hearing for its interactivity with players. Apart from this, PS4 provides console vibration (sense of touch) at appropriate times to enhance the immersive gaming experience.
- Play-related VGI
Character customization interactivity
Players will play three protagonists in different chapters of the game, some chapters will allow players to control 2–3 protagonists accordingly.
Similar to the protagonist in The Legend of Zelda who wakes up after sleeping for hundreds of years, in Detroit: Become Human , the protagonist is a bionic character that does not come with any pre-set emotions or experiences. As the player explores the world in the game, the protagonist is given a meaning and a purpose.
In addition, due to the bionic setting of the character, the choices made during the interaction process are given deeper meanings, even the pauses could be attributed to the mechanical choice of the bionic human brain. In comparison to other games with drop-down menu options, Detroit: Become Human has less abruptness.
3. The interaction of actual game experience
- Players continuously switch between the perspectives of bystanders and protagonists. Through a series of choices (lie/truth; show empathy/appeasement/request for hostage release; make the bed/clean the desk, etc.) players enter different story lines. Players are both the character and the director.
- The switching of perspectives is not controlled by the player, it is automatically presented by the game (more movie-oriented rather than game-oriented)
- The types of interactivity players could choose from includes action and speech, but the choices only determine the general direction of the story line. Unlike The Legend of Zelda or Red Dead Redemption, every action of the character could be freely controlled by the player.
- The selection interaction has a nested menu that is different from a single drop-down menu, which the choices made before and the subvision direction under the general direction could be seen.
- Although the storyline is carried out in typical narration, every character has different attitudes, emotions, developments and endings due to different scenarios and how the story has a massive amount of plot branches and possibilities.
The Whitcher series
- General VGI. Global release platforms are: PC, PS4, and Xbox One, mainly through home game consoles and personal computers. It depends on the player’s sight and hearing for its interactivity with players.
- Play-related VGI
- Players can explore, control and change multiple endings of the game. Geralt has to make decisions that change the state of the world during the game, which leads to 36 possible endings and affects the lives of the characters.
- Either through the conversation with characters or NPCs in the game, players can activate some specifically interactive modes of characters. For example, Geralt can interact with different characters he encounters in the game by bribing, drinking, fighting, forging, exchanging gifts, meditating, trading and so on.
- The Whitcher series focuses on narrative and has a dialogue wheel that allows players to choose how they want to react to non-player characters.
- The Whitcher 3 contains a preset narrative that players can complete tasks, participate in dialogues and select to watch cutscenes. It also provides a small amount of burst narrative because the player can shape the ending of the story from the character’s emotional interest, political standpoint, the living state of important NPCs and the fate of Geralt’s daughter. Players can make several different choices. Throughout the game, they may be regarded as “emergency choices”, but these selections are often made by interacting with the game to complete the “narrative formulation”, which is the generation of the narrative formula. Due to the detailed open world setting, The Witcher 3 has a rich embedded narrative. For example, in these three maps the country is experiencing war and famine. The environment between NPCs and the bloody battlefields are conveyed to the players through the background narrative.
Through the exploration of VGI in the above games, we found that the general meaning of VGI in the current game market mainly reflects the interaction of sight, hearing and perception. Play-related VGI is still in the stage of continuous development. Many game manufacturers have tried to explore the “Exploration” dimension, but when it comes to allowing AI to empower game interactions is still immature, especially on advancing the progress of plots and the interactions with intelligent NPCs.
2. Interactive content and experience of Video Games
2.1 Interactive content and market research of video games
In the first part, we discussed the definition and different types of Video Game Interactivity. As a matter of fact, it is more about exploring the interactivity of a game from the perspective of a developer. In the second part, we will change the perspective and try to understand the interactive content of video games from the perspective of the player. And meanwhile, we want to put more discussion on the content of the game, so there will be no interaction between game players involved.
Actually, regarding the interactive content of video games, Liu Zhuo discussed the following aspects in his paper Entertainment Experience and Interaction Design of Video Games:
- Interactivity of the overall environment of the game: The overall environment of the game refers to the fantasy world in the game. Things that interact with the player in the game environment can give the player a visual impact. This overall environment is a game environment similar to the real world created by combining the story background of the game and the design of each character in the game. A charming and uniform game environment can create a mysterious game world for game players, thereby creating a sense of “immersion” in the game.
- Interactivity of the game interface: The game interface refers to the information of game elements visible on the game screen. The arrangement and combination of game elements such as the combination of images and text in the game, the shape and arrangement of buttons, the layout of the main screen, changes in game perspective, the reception of various information in the game, etc. An excellent game interface can make players feel visually happy, and users can truly enjoy the pleasure brought by human-machine interaction and humanized operation during the game; game players can then operate freely on the interface, easily receiving and understanding the prompt information in the game. What is more, they can flexibly use the game hardware equipment to play the game to achieve the purpose of entertainment.
- Interactivity of the game process: The game process refers to the plot of the game. The development of the plot during the participation of game players is the process of the game. The interactivity of the game process is the core of the game. Progress of the game changes according to the player’s operation, and the computer can make a reasonable response according to the player’s behavior, thereby prompting the player to respond to the computer. A game with good interactivity allows players to have a variety of different choices during the game. According to different choices, different game processes will be launched in the game. The larger the player’s choice of action, the more experience and fun they can get.
- Interactivity of game sounds: Game sounds include all the sound effects, voices, game background music, etc. in the game. Game sounds are the most direct auditory contact between the player and the game, and are the key to auditory interaction.They can be divided into functional sounds and background sounds. Functional sounds are related to the use and operation of the game, such as the sounds of game characters running, jumping, shooting, etc., as well as various prompt sounds in the game; the interactive sound of the back of the game character is essential to set off the atmosphere. Designing background music is often inseparable from the type of game. For example, the background music of action-adventure games makes people feel excited and creepy. The music is relaxed and cheerful, and even some gamers can change the background music according to their hobbies.
- Interactivity of game characters: Game characters refer to the unique characters in the game and the characters controlled and played by the player. Game characters are the way for game players to enter the game. Players gradually become the characters in the game and integrate into the game environment through the control of the characters and the upgrading of the characters as the game progresses.
These above 5 dimensions can help us get a better understanding of how players interact with game content, but in order to further understand the interactivity of video games from the player side, rct studio has made a simple online Video Game Interactivity Research. A total of 90 questionnaires were collected in this online survey. We can see the survey results: the male to female ratio is about 2:1. The ages of the participants are mainly 18–25 years old (90%), and their education is mainly undergraduate (60.61%). The distribution of game time per week is relatively discrete: the number of people who play games for less than 5 hours is the largest (39.39%), followed by 10–15 hours (14.24%), 5–10 hours (21.21%), and more than 15 hours (15.15 %).
Through the results, we found that in the question about the game type that players feel most likely to present “player and game content interaction”, more players choose RPG role-playing games (84.85%). Furthermore, research shows that players pay more attention to the story and world view of the game (75.76%) and the intelligence of NPCs (40%) when playing games.
Here, we hope to take a closer look at the role that NPCs play between the interaction with players in RPG games
2.2 The interaction between NPC and player in RPG games
According to definition, role-playing games, or RPGs for short, are a type of game. In the game, the player is responsible for playing this role in a realistic or fictional world; and meanwhile the player is also responsible for playing one or more roles, and let the role get developed through some actions under a structured rule. The success and failure of the player in this process depends on a formal system of rules or actions.
We can extract three key pieces of information from the definition: player acting, plot development, and rule binding. NPCs play a role by interacting with players, promoting the plot, and helping players have a better gaming experience. Yu-Tao Mo mentioned in his paper Comparison between non-NPC interaction and NPC interaction that for NPC, it interacts with players who have different attributes, such as identity, personality, ability, etc., and presents different emotions and behavior patterns. This will greatly arouse the player’s emotional attitude towards the character and stimulate the player’s immersion. On the other hand, as a necessary carrier for the interaction of game functions, NPC can help player characters to participate in the process of game activities smoothly and complete some task objects, such as system help, map guidance and item sales.
In addition, the paper also analyzed and compared Fallout 4 and Fallout 76. According to the open information, by July 2020, the number of players in Fallout 4 on SteamDB is: 838,024, and the score on the comprehensive scoring website Metacritic is about 85 points, while the number of players in Fallout 76 is: 54,184. The score on Metacritic is about 50 points, and sales are much lower than Fallout 4. For this phenomenon, this paper explains from the perspective of NPC interaction in the game.
For Fallout 4, the development of game plots is based on interaction with NPCs. The game sets different backgrounds and ideologies for NPCs. Contents of the dialogue between the player and the NPC will directly affect the NPC’s judgments of decisions, leading to changes in the player’s mission and story. These complex NPC settings constitute a rich interaction between players and NPCs in Fallout 4, and also determine the way the entire game interacts.
In contrast to the interaction mode used in Fallout 4, Fallout 76 uses a non-NPC interaction mode. In this mode, the traditional NPC is cancelled. There are no human NPCs in the game, only various mission props and wild non-human monsters. At the same time, Fallout 76 introduced the concept of online games, allowing players to play online. In other words, the humans that players can see in the game can only be other players. Such a non-NPC interaction mode makes the entire game unable to achieve real interaction.
At this point, we probably also understand the importance of NPC in RPG games. First of all, NPC can increase the diversity of the game. Players interact with different NPCs differently, which greatly enriches the game contents and improves the diversity of the game. In addition, NPC also enhances the authenticity of the game. Sandbox games are essentially creating an open world and allowing players to do as many things as possible in this open world. In other words, sandbox games provide players with infinite approaches to the real world according to the rules of the game. The existence of NPC allows players to get feedback on every behavior in the game world, and at the same time promotes the progress of the entire game, which greatly improves the authenticity of the game.
2.3 Value structure and analysis of NPC
Let us take a deeper look, in addition to the meaning and value discussed above, we can also conduct a further value analysis on NPCs according to different game types. First, let us introduce two concepts:
- NPC interaction effect: its value is mainly reflected in the interaction with the player in the narrative
- NPC scale effect: its value is mainly reflected in the richness of the narrative and content emerging with multiple NPCs
For different game types, the value increment brought by NPCs is different:
- Single-player game: NPC interact benefit + NPC scale benefit
- MMO game: NPC interaction benefit + NPC scale benefit + player scale effect (interaction between players)
By searching for information, we have listed the single-player games and MMO games in the relevant open world games, as well as the single-player games and MMO games in the non-open world games, as following charts. It shows the quantity of NPCs in single-player games are generally more than MMO games and the single-player games influence the narratives and plots more.
Through a simple comparison, we can find that the rate of return of open-world single-player games is higher than MMO games, and according to our quantitative model, in the open world games, the interaction effect and scale effect of single-player games are greater than MMO games.
As to the non-open world, according to the model, the same conclusion can be obtained: the interaction effect and scale effect of single-player games are greater than MMO games.
So we can basically affirm the value of NPCs’ interaction in games, and it will definitely help games of this type improve its performance in the market.
3. The development and future of Video Game Interactivity
3.1 Prospects of the Video Game Interactivity
This part focuses on the game industry with some rational thoughts on what will happen in the future of Video Game Interactivity.
According to the survey, we collected players’ expectations on what they want in future interactive video games. It shows that 78.13% of players want a more realistic immersive experience in future game interactions, 65.63% of players prefer richer plots, 56.25% of players hope to be able to interact with more smarter NPCs, and 53.13% of the players ask for more experience terminals.
Based on the feedback of players, we divide VGI in the first part into two parts: general VGI and VGI during the game.
As for general VGI, players expect more immersive experience and various terminals to experience. Precisely, what gamers want is a simple, direct and effective way of information transmission during the games.This change in information transmission may be through a more enveloping display, whether it is a VR or an curved screen; it may be through a more free way of game operation without restriction of keyboard controllers; it can also be accurate bone recognition which allows the player to get rid of the controller with more natural movements; it may also be haptic suit enables player to feel the water droplets and feel the resistance of contacting objects. Moreover, as the physics engine enables more and more details in games, the future interaction process can bring players more realistically crushing effects, more attractive fluid effects, and more scenes closer to the real world to the details in game scenes.
For the in-game VGI, players expect richer plots and more smarter NPCs. When players can access another virtual world through more advanced hardware devices, what they expect might be a dynamic and unpredictable interactive experience with NPC closer to real human beings. Without the shackles of traditional text interaction, information transmission will be a set of data analyzed from a series of actions and reactions performed by the player. These actions and reactions can be related to a certain purpose and a certain emotional state, which would contain far richer information than plain text.
3.2 Rational views of the future of Video Game Interactivity
After providing positive prospects for the future of Video Game Interactivity, we analyze future game interaction cautiously. With the market size of the game industry, the development of AI, the attempts of major game manufacturers, and the development of dynamic start-up companies, we can objectively analyze the future of video game interaction.
Global Game Industry Market Size
According to Newzoo, the global game market in 2020 will generate a revenue up to 159.3 billion US dollars, with a healthy growth of 9.3% YoY. Accordingly, the game market will continue to grow in the next few years, and the revenue will exceed $200 billion by the end of 2023. By then, the game market will increase to $2008 billion at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.3%.
Global Artificial Intelligence Market Size
According to Grand View Research’s latest research report 2019, the global artificial intelligence market is worth $39.9 billion and is expected to reach $73.37 billion by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 42.2%.
The Development of Artificial Intelligence in Video Game Interactivity
The technology behind the current game experience relies on “finite state machine” and “decision tree”. At present, based on existing technology, the storyline is driven by different events. When the player interacts with the NPC or the environment, the next event is triggered until the end of the whole story. In other words, the current interactive story or game experience is produced by preparing the whole next set of plots in advance.
However, with the continuous iteration of reinforcement learning, this disruptive technology will change this traditional narrative logic and the way of interacting with NPCs.
Attempts & Progress of Game Manufacturers in AI + Game
More and more game manufacturers are introducing AI into game development, and are trying their best to employ the potentiality of AI + Games. Ubisoft established the AI R&D department “LaForge” in 2017, preparing to combine game development with scientific research to help NPCs be more realistic; EA and Sony are trying to use neural networks and genetic algorithms to make complex environments and interactive rules formulation become feasible. Through algorithmic improvements, instead of script settings, players can find a variety of solutions from various emergencies and situations, which is different from the rigid linear task flow in traditional games. In addition, 3A game manufacturers such as CD Projekt and Rockstar North have also invested a lot in AI research and development.
Game Startups Financing Cases
rct studio collected the financing events of global game companies in the past three years. A total of 1,440 game companies have financed. Among them, most game companies in the angel round and Series-A round, accounting for 45% of the total. This shows that the development of start-up games companies is still at an early stage.
To sum up, the market development of games and AI has a positive trend, and more and more game manufacturers are participating in this change. Although the development of start-up game companies is relatively early, the number of participation reveals the enthusiasm for future game changes. Let’s take a positive attitude to embrace the interactive changes of future game entertainment.
3.3 Philosophical discussion on Video Games Interactivity
Finally, as the “Ninth Art”, in addition to its entertainment and artistic value, the video game also contains tremendous vitality and philosophical significance. rct studio wants to explore “interactivity” from a philosophical perspective.
Looking at the past decades of development in the gaming industry, from the initial single-target NPC interaction like “Pac-Man” to the currently widely used decision tree and state machine system, finally, to machine-learning application in video games. We will find that people have higher and higher expectations for video games. They increasingly hope to build a differently desired world in the game, thus approaching the role of the creator. For people, video games, from the beginning of entertainment and leisure, have gradually become experimental sites and carriers for cutting-edge technologies.
In the journey of human development, not only are there interactions with the world at all times, but the existence of human beings itself is also a type of interactivity. When we are discussing interactivity, we are trying to point out a kind of thinking, which is about the existence and possible relationship between us and the world. However, the concept of interactivity will be rather vague. There does not seem to be a clear definition in the philosophical sense. Most of the description comes from applications in various industrial fields, such as human-computer interactivity, data interactivity, front-end interactivity, interactive pages, etc. In fact, the Chinese old phrase “separate yin and yang, interact with each other” in Jing Shi Yi Zhuan-Zhen, describes the interactivity most vividly.
Based on absolute space and absolute motion, interactivity and motion have similarities, yet there are differences. A movement is the behavior of the object itself, and the state of movement is relative to space. Interactivity must be the behavior between two objects. There is no necessary relationship between the state of the interactivity and the space. The interactivity itself is a relationship in nature, and as long as it exists, it will interact, but we can’t observe it through our naked eyes or any tools.
For a long time, people have understood this, so they began to draw the hypothetical world and record it through words, language, pictures, and videos. Video games are similar which are also people’s imagination and exploration of another space. But the reason why a game is a game is that it has a more profound interaction and experience than images, texts, and long & short videos. It offers a higher degree of freedom to explore space and decision-making opportunities. The only thing that needs to be considered is the rules in different worlds, just like those we face in the real world. There are many underlying rules, and we can choose to follow or not to follow. Objectively speaking, the timeline of the real world which we currently can recognize is unidirectional, there is no “branch storyline”. Every moment is in a “main storyline”, and there is only one chance for us to move forward discreetly.
Fortunately, the gaming world provides us with plenty of choices and the possibility of multiple regressions in the timeline. Through various scenes in a game, we have the shared experience and feelings that are supposed to be obtained in the real world. The game gives us feedback and helps us get to know ourselves better. People’s knowledge of the world, including that of themselves, is inherently incomplete. Also, on this basis, people themselves are world participants. People’s actions must be influenced by their cognition of the world. In that sense, people’s decisions and behaviors are dependent on their cognition. Similarly, human cognition does not stand in isolation, because human cognition is influenced by the world (elements in the real world also support the virtual world), and the world is closely related to people’s behavior. Overall, it implies that human behavior is counteractive to human cognition, which is what we call, feedback.
Furthermore, the reason that people get feedback is essentially because of our curiosity. Since mankind first looked up at the stars millions of years ago, mankind’s curiosity about the entire world has never ceased. As a species, the objective of human beings is to survive and reproduce. In the long run, there are two ultimate options for human beings. One is to externally explore outer space through interstellar travel, becoming an interstellar species and increasomg the probability of survival. The other is to explore ourselves internally, to be able to upload the human brain to the cloud and become a cloud species, dramatically expanding the extensibility of our lives. In other words, if such a vision can be realized, we need to re-examine and define the life of humanity.
Science and technology are continually pushing human beings to move forward and develop toward these two goals. The realization of general artificial intelligence allows us to face the tedious and long interstellar travel in the future. Moreover, by using AI for navigations, control and assistance, we can further explore its potential application in simulating, replicating, and creating another self in the cloud. To achieve this goal, we need to understand ourselves better. The video game is the best carrier or container, building a world that allows us to conduct unlimited explorations and simulations, and further restore every element, scene, and rule in the real world through AI. Thus, we can release our imagination, turning the fantasy in the real world into reality in the virtual world.
To that end, we will never stop exploring the unknown. Whether it is for an interstellar species or a cloud species, AI technology is a vital and indispensable part of human reproduction. The road of AI stretches endless ahead, we shall search heaven and earth. In the long run, humans will coexist with AI, and understanding humanity through AI is part of our destiny.
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Directing narrative in gameplay: player interaction in shaping narrative in the witcher 3
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