Back to the Future


The landscape
Wong talked about searching for a new aesthetic, or at least an identifiable aesthetic, in the age of VR and AR.

New technology has always required a reworking of old tools and the invention of new ones. Falstein noted that that’s still the case for VR, AR, 360 et al.

People have been sharing stories for thousands of years, with the techniques developing from a speaker at a campfire to cave paintings, theatre, the printing press, recorded imagery on wax and acetate, radio, and talking motion pictures and television. People are still telling stories but the language and tools they use continue to change.

For VR, the challenge is getting processing speeds to the right side of a 20millisecond response time. Less than 20 milliseconds passes as simultaneous as far as the human brain is concerned. If it takes a VR system more than 20ms to process instructions and display the results, that’s when users experience motion sickness – generally not a response that’s conducive to enjoyment.



Falstein noted the development of Google cardboard, a headset to hold a mobile phone as a VR screen, as one of the tools Google had developed. There are now over 5 million of them in use.

Drawing parallels with the film and TV industries where the shift to digital capture, the arrival of YouTube and other video platforms, lowered the barriers to entry, Wong noted a similar democratisation of the access to tools and free resources for game developers. The increase in teaching programming in schools would significantly grow the number of people able to design games.

What might the future look like?
Wong suggested it might look quite a lot like the past, but in HD. Retro remains a popular art style, although it’s catching up. He expected to see developers revisit games that were originally made at the cutting edge of available technology, but didn’t achieve their potential because the developers hadn’t fully understood or exploited the tech’s capabilities.

The future will also look like the creators want it to. As with film, Wong noted, indie creators remain more willing to experiment than large studios. He praised Wellington-based creators Dinosaur Polo Club for their Mini Metro and, especially, its design.

Falstein and Wong both observed that VR and AR meant creating new user interfaces and new visual languages to make user experience all that it could be – something that fellow NZGDC16 speaker Lucy Morris devoted her session to.


Written by Keith Barclay

Keith is the editor of SCREENZ, and the co-creator and founding editor of CREWED.


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