Future of Enterprise Gaming
The Director of the Future Enterprise Research Centre- David Hunter Tow, forecasts that by 2035 advances in Gaming technology will accelerate the emergence of an advanced form of Virtual Reality incorporating physics and game theory, integrated with cultural, work, service and education practices.
It will also assist society in coping with the impact of Global Warming and other major potential threats to the planet and at the same time radically reshape the future of the enterprise.
Gaming or game playing has now become a mainstream activity for all demographics- available anywhere, anytime and often for free. From simple combinatorial games such as Candy Crush to social and educational games such as Minecraft and Farmville- the first used as an initiative of the UN Habitat program allowing populations to redesign open recreational spaces around the world, while Farmville allows players to simulate the operations of a farm, allowing them to grow, cultivate and harvest crops.
Most are now available via the Internet, downloaded to a PC or mobile platform.
But this is just the beginning of the gaming revolution. With the rapid penetration of the Internet, this form of simulated recreation is now becoming a part of everyday human lives for work or pleasure.
Gaming has been building as an entertainment form for many years- advancing in popularity, sophistication and financial accessability from the earliest forms of arcade video games to basic black-and-white 2D format in the seventies, to largely war and conflict games in eighties and nineties such as Battlefield 3 and finally evolving to the more complex, life-like 3D games of fantasy, role playing, education, graphic realism, story telling and finally the present mind blowing virtual reality format such as Second Life 2.
Infinite reams have been written in gaming blogs about the pros and cons of the various specialised consoles and game-playing platforms - consoles such as PS4, Xbox, Nintendo’s Wii U and the new Chinese entrants. And also about the rise of the new generation of powerful PCs and laptops with multicore chipsets and GPUs, based increasingly on Linux variants such as SteamOS.
And now with the increasing popularity of the nextgen mobile Phones and Pads such as the android Tegra K1 equipped with advanced hardware and software set to match the full power of consoles, the choice is expanding exponentially. It is increasingly cross-platform offering a common technology base streamed from the Web.
Today’s massive multiplayer Internet platforms also offer limitless Cloud storage and processing capacity, capable of reaching and interacting with tens of thousands of game players simultaneously- as demonstrated at the recent Twitch Pokemon gameplay event the beginning of a new form of crowd gaming, just like a world interactive chess or football championship beamed globally.
In the future games will also connect to home video screens and full 3D/HD holographic surround displays and cockpits, controlled by hand gestures, similar to those envisioned in the Minority Report and Star Wars Holodeck systems.
So the world of gaming is now on a trajectory that requires it to offer ever more powerful graphics and special effects when the storyline demands it, creating more and more realism and beyond.
Models based on the laws of physics can realistically replicate the physical properties of the natural world, using engines capable of generating rich 3D environments; specifically algorithms that mimic real world effects like subtle lighting and shadows, wind and rain, sky and cloud textures, the deformation of materials and the collision of particles, fire and heat as well as the movements of flocks of birds, the subtle synchrony of trees and forests and the flow of rivers.
Beyond that is the physics of human and animal movement- skin texture and facial expressions, including seamless actions and reactions mirroring complex cognitive behavioural and psychological responses in realtime. Also utilising biofeedback- pulse rates, respiration, body temperature etc, allowing the delivery of personal, immersive and customisable feedback experience to the player.
And beyond that is the physics of big data- the staple diet of the enterprise.
As the quality and complexity of online games improves more people will spend more time playing them, until the game becomes an intrinsic part of their lives. Interactive role playing will also also become key, where the player is part of the storyline and chooses the action pathway; evolving from the early games of Battlefield Galactica to Dungeons and Dragons and SteamPunk.
And why does this interactive trajectory of evolution relate to the enterprise?
Because games are basically interactive events and strategies with goals and processes and achievements interwoven in an ongoing narrative within a digital environment- and so are the operations and outcomes of an enterprise within a realworld social, business and economic environment. And probably the most effective cost and time way of testing the massive multiplicity of operational combinations and strategic options is to first simulate them digitally by invoking the physics of big data and behavioural science.
And a new set of game experiences shows how this can be most realistically done using virtual reality. Games such as Zelda, 300: Rise of an Empire, Civilisation V, Assassin's Creed, Brave New World, UE4, Ashphalt 8, San Andreas and Anomaly 2 etc are now playing out in true HD virtual reality, using ultra VR surround helmets such as the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus as well as the lure of realistic graphics interfaces, direct brain to computer and brain to brain cognitive interfaces, linked to full holographic immersive sensory surround.
So ultimately we find ourselves in the another space altogether- the realm of pure augmented and virtual reality. And how do we know that these exotic forms of simulated reality will mark the next phase of Gaming for entertainment and the future enterprise? Because they already do.
Virtual reality in entertainment has been around a long time - in sci-fi films such as The Matrix. But from a gaming perspective also in early prototypes such as cockpit arcade games, flight simulators and 3D Second Life, Avatar and World of Warcraft.
Now VR technology has taken a gigantic leap in the form of the Oculus Rift headset and other similar technologies that allow games to be visualised in 3D in synch with head and body movements linked to a kinetic controller. Soon they will be stanaldone consumer systems not linked to a separate computer.
Although currently still restricted to developers, such helmets and glasses will become a commodity item for players, selling at less than $100 equipped with their own computing power but also linkable to the Cloud for integrating with the realtime IT management of the future enterprise and Web.
At the same time Augmented reality- allowing multiple layers of information and images and visual effects to overlay real world images has become almost commonplace with Google Glass now leading the charge; allowing doctors, engineers and machine operators to work in complex, dangerous and restricted environments and planners, advertisers and marketers to target potential customers on the move with the most appealing consumer product messages.
In the near future therefore it will therefore become increasingly difficult to separate the ‘virtual’ from the 'real' - integrating game role playing with actions in real life and the real enterprise.
As early as 2030 most of our lives will be immersed in this shared reality- linking game playing with art, entertainment, technology, science, work and daily life routines such as shopping, entertainment, social exchange and travel. Meanwhile the new world of startups is providing more creative and efficient ways of implementing everyday processes in eCommerce, services, the media and entertainment via mobile platforms and will increasingly be implemented via a game-friendly interface.
This will be accelerated by the Internet of Things or intelligent objects. The internet of objects will allow the built environment of human civilisation to be simulated and controlled via sensors and actuators allowing X-reality- the fusion of virtual and real processes, to become the norm.
Alternate realities will then surround us not only visually, but at all sensory levels- tactile, oral, taste and smell. They will also be populated by virtual life forms living within virtual societies, creating virtual communities endowed with their own sets of goals and behaviour patterns. These new realities will be multi- dimensional, operating in realtime as simulations; increasingly inseparable from the real reality.
Artificial life or A-Life is also being created in the computer science laboratories, based on the spontaneous computer generation of emergent behaviour that mimics the dynamics of biological evolution. A-life or virtual life organisms are programmed to carry out the basic evolutionary processes of reproduction, mutation and selection just like biological life. Virtual life avatars will also be realistic, equipped with artificial intelligence and generating their own unique cognitive problem solving capability- supporting both individual human and enterprise needs.
By 2035 the Web will offer an all-immersive 3D environment combining elements ofsocial networks, virtual worlds and geolocation, linked to a dense Google Earth matrix; allowing closer interaction with friends and contacts in their daily lives and distributed workplaces as well as remote wilderness and critical disaster areas. These physical representations or models of our earth and its social environment represent mirror worlds and virtual communities which will also be pervasive within the enterprise.
Virtual communities already exist as part of non-violent creative games such as The Sims 4 and Farmlife 2 as mentioned, limited only by the imagination of their creators- meshing with the real world of sensory information as its users navigate through their daily simulated lives.
Prototypes of virtual worlds will then no longer be limited to the relatively static domains of 20th century IMax cinemas, Museums and Planetariums- innovative as they may be. They will represent an emerging Metaverse of potential and realised realities- past, present and future. It’s then just a small step to create proto-reality spaces such as the Star Treck Holodeck, not just for entertainment and gaming but for real life enhancement, business simulation and most importantly problem-solving.
By 2035 therefore gaming models will have transformed into an integral part of a new human reality.
In hindsight it can be seen that virtual, augmented and X- realities are early phases in an ongoing evolutionary transition towards the acceptance of virtual forms as part of everyday human co-existence with their counterparts. In the process we have crossed the threshold into a seamless new dimension, extending human perception and interaction; linking ubiquitous sensory and actuator networks based on low cost wireless and optical technologies to create mixed realities.
Such a dense networked web will help integrate physical reality into virtual computing platforms generating the ability to react to real-world events in autonomous fashion- a vital aspect of the future enterprise where expert decisions must be implemented on the fly. This will create a revolutionary relationship between human society and the Web, with the urgent need to understand the way our behaviour and future protocols will become inevitably shaped by its cyberspace environment.
In other words the world is evolving its own electronic nervous system via a dense mesh of neural-type networks, eventually connecting and encompassing vast numbers of objects- living and non-living, on the planet. It is already beginning to host an immersive 3D sensory environment that combines elements of social and virtual worlds with increasingly complex location mapping applications that allow the monitoring and planning of natural and urban ecosystems- and particularly the capacity to cope with climate change and future economic shock.
This approaching Armageddon will be a critical accelerator in the emergence of serious problem-solving game technology in Government and the enterprise.
The implications and potential of these virtual advances are enormous, pointing the way towards the next momentous shift in the evolution of human life and our world- a fusion of real and virtual realities.
Gaming technology is already becoming mainstream in the world of business, education, science, entertainment and disaster management. This is so-called serious simulation gaming, applied to activities such as conflict resolution and negotiation, high level investment and strategic business decision-making, healthcare research, education, manufacturing, logistical and maintenance managment, scheduling, administration and workplace operational skills- all played out like an arcade or console game.
The following examples provide some insight into the future application of gaming principles-
War gaming and Disaster Management-
This involves the application of strategic planning methods to evaluate and improve performance in response to scripted and random scenarios; testing the effectiveness of a plan or procedure or its ability to cope with unpredictable events; then mitigating the exposed risks.
Advanced gaming technologies such as Oculus Rift and intelligent agent software will be used to achieve immersive virtual reality to improve the flexibility, efficiency and quality of the decision-making involved.
Interactive Entertainment Gaming-
Gaming in the context of live sporting and entertainment events has received a boost recently using a system to provide every fan at a sporting event with a personalised phone wifi and location connection app- Mobbra; alllowing them to receive content such as background player interviews, game statistics and augmented reality interaction with other spectators.
Crossover between virtual gaming and real life skills is also being extended to selecting gamers as trainee competitive racing drivers at Nissan’s GT academy of Gran Turismo, on the basis of their virtual driving skills.
Science and Problem-solving Gaming
Digital games like World of Warcraft and Fold.it are compelling examples of how technology can engage thousands of players in learning and solving complex problems - even in making scientific discoveries. Research in how people learn and interact in online gaming environments can assist in designing online education for science learning- integrating gaming technologies into classrooms and research facilities.
Now this symbiosis has been taken to a new level through- Gaming Crowdsourcing- expanding the support and creativity of relative outsiders in a variety of disciplines, helping to solve complex scientific problems from biology to cosmology, through the power of many minds combining through games interfaces with computers and the power of the Web.
For example Phylo is a game that allows users to contribute to the science of genetics by aligning sequences of dna, rna and proteins to locate similarities and learn how they have evolved over time. Humans are better at solving such visual puzzles than computers and Phylo represents such molecular groups by the alignment of vertical coloured pieces on a screen. There are currently 16,000 registered users working to solve such puzzles as well as a Facebook group to suggest Phylo improvements.
Foldit is a protein folding game, capable of solving puzzles that have challenged professional scientists for years such as the optimum folding patterns of chains of amino acid that make up the building blocks of enzymes and proteins and cracking the code of how an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus is created. It took the gamers only three weeks to create an accurate model of the solution.
Forty thousand registered users of the game Planet Hunters have identified 69 potential new planets from data retrieved from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, to find habitable planets outside earth’s solar system.
In addition a number of phone app games have been developed by physics professionals to view 3D particle collisions on a quest to find the Higgs boson.
Education and Training Gaming
Video games are also having an enormous impact on children and adolescents of school age. But that impact is often seen as disruptive. The aim in academic circles is therefore to change that perception and harness the creative aspects of gaming to enhance the whole education process
By 2035 the full power of the web will be deployed towards this new learning paradigm, including powerful simulation training environments based on immersive virtual reality.
Augmented and virtual realities will allow procedures and knowledge to be absorbed within 3D virtual worlds and games capable of simulating most services and applications, supporting the full range of training needs from trade apprenticeships to strategic management skills.
The benefits of teaching in such VR environments include the capacity to explore real life situations without risk, as is currently practiced by pilots using flight simulators and the more objective and automatic monitoring and assessment of performance criteria.
The application of virtual worlds to education will become a standard function of school and university teaching and research in the near future. Users are already using such technology to socialise and connect through personalised avatars. These worlds can therefore be quickly adapted to provide learning support and feedback between students, with the added potential to create teaching avatar support.
Gaming environments can also be adapted to offer support for the solution of complex real world problems in areas such finance, investment, innovation, logistics, human resources, production, planning and economic analysis.
Social media sites are also creating environments where planners can experiment with new research techniques, by applying intelligent agents to simulate interacting populations.
These are the same applications that will be most beneficial for business.
Game Theory Applications
As gaming becomes more scientific in its quest for greater realism and performance as well as in its practical application to real world problem-solving and support, there will be an inevitable convergence with the science of Game Theory.
Game Theory is all about making better decisions to maximise value in games that simulate negotiation of power or assets between individuals or groups based on an understanding of the mathematical rules governing the dynamics of the process. Determining the risks involved- the probabilities of potential success or failure of an action or strategy, is a major part of the process.
Game theory had its genesis well over 50 years ago, providing a mathematical basis for capturing the essence of strategic negotiations between parties or game resolution, applied to model simple zero sum outcomes relating to economic or trade advantage, with an interaction between two parties.
Economists, evolutionary biologists, social scientists and even diplomats have all attempted to harness its magic to underpin their analysis of a wide range of realworld scenarios.
The scope of the theory has widened in recent times to include diplomacy between nation states in international relations, climate change and carbon emission impacts on populations and major corporations competing to gain leverage in the technology, energy and resource sectors.
And by changing the rules of the game and playing more openly and cooperatively it is hoped that better solutions can be devised- for example for mitigating water, energy and food shortages over the next century.
A number of critical decision points have converged in our civilisation’s evolution, which will demand better methods of global cooperation and resolution.
Global issues such as violent weather patterns, spread of dangerous diseases, risk of terrorism, endemic poverty, refugee relocation, food and water scarcity, equal access to the web and knowledge - all demand international resolution on a fair and equitable basis with the future enterprise playing a central role as the engine of society- not self-absorbed in its own imploding growth and profit bubble.
Political diplomacy alone is not providing the answers. In the 21st century, traditional negotiating methods, leader summits etc, have proved inadequate- not agile enough, uncertain in their resolution, lacking sufficient enforcement- falling far short of the level of sophistication needed to manage the critical stresses and constraints facing our future world.
The future enterprise now has an opportunity to step up and apply new elements of gaming and game technology to provide the necessary survival capability - but in a more creative and equitable way.
A number of techniques hold out promise for salvation, including the application of algorithmic and artificial intelligence, new network and adaptive systems theory and innovative paradigms. But none holds out greater hope than Game Theory, in particular its latest incarnation- Quantum Game theory.
As outlined, typical applications of the theory attempt to find an equilibrium solution or optimum zero-sum outcome in these contests, based on the competing strategies of all participants. The parties involved seek to optimise their strategies so as to achieve the most desirable outcomes for themselves.
These strategies are therefore based on norms of rationality and self-interest, but at the same time expose major weaknesses in the method. As has been demonstrated recently with the collapse of standard free market economic theory, humans are rarely rational, and the concept of reaching a stable equilibrium point does not exist in our complicated society, with billions of interacting variables and actors. In addition cooperation between parties often achieves better outcomes than aggressive self-interested competition.
In traditional non-cooperative Game theory, the most famous mathematical scenario is the Nash equilibrium, in which players are assumed to know the strategies of the others and finally have nothing further to gain by changing their own self-serving positions. But in many cases the players might improve their payoffs if they could agree on a more cooperative strategy incorporating more flexible positions.
But classical Game Theory has another big flaw. It is based on participants receiving clear and reliable information of others’ strategic intentions. This also rarely happens in real life, in which cheating or duplicitous tactics in negotiations are often the norm, allowing loopholes for recalcitrant parties or ‘free riders’.
These are players who for whatever reason, are not willing to pull their weight or stand by their commitment to make the sacrifices required for the greater good; but nevertheless will still attempt to share in the overall benefits. This is the elephant in the game room that quantum theory can address.
Benefits for example are often about rights to ‘public goods’ or globally shared rights and resources such as clean air, adequate food and water, human rights, basic health care and education.
In the ‘public goods’ game a number of individuals or governments choose how much to contribute to achieve a desirable public benefit, such as committing to the maintenance of CO2 levels below a dangerous threshold or trade access by developing nations to wealthy markets.
If all the players commit to the common good, then everyone benefits from the outcomes. But if some cheat by not contributing or reneg on previously negotiated commitments, other players may also lose the incentive to be involved and the projected benefit will be lost to all parties.
The quantum version of game theory helps avoid this dilemma. In the quantum game, players are linked by the uniquely quantum phenomenon of Entanglement in which a change in commitment by one party is automatically sensed by all others who can react accordingly nullifying any unfair advantage.
Enterprises and governments are already using quantum entanglement in encryption devices and soon prototype quantum computers. It therefore appears feasible to apply such technology to achieve more rigorous negotiating outcomes. Participants could verify the authenticity of others’ negotiating positions, using electronic tokens and readout indicators for entangled negotiating positions.
This reduces the opportunity for free loading or fraudulent behaviour by any of the negotiating parties, thereby guaranteeing a fairer outcome. In the high stakes global negotiations rapidly escalating in this century, in which the future of the planet is literally at stake, it is vital that such fail-safe methods are applied.
In all its incarnations therefore- Gaming and Game Theory- one simulating complex interactions in a user friendly environment and the other helping to ensure equitable outcomes in an age of cooperation, offers the future enterprise a major payoff.
Worth trying? No doubt.
The 21st century is no place for complacency or intransigence- both roads will lead to almost certain annihilation.