The future of gaming Part 2

Nathan Burba of Project Holodeck

Nathan Burba of Project Holodeck

The future of Gaming Part 2

In the book Age of Angels a computer game called Fallen Angel has become a global sensation. Everyone in the world is playing it. The trouble is that the game is secretly controlled by Lucifer, the Fallen Angel!
Recently I talked to two pioneers in virtual reality gaming: James Lliff and Nathan Burba who are creating a fully immersive game in their Project Holodeck at the University of Southern California. The game world they are creating is very similar to that found in Fallen Angel, so I asked them the burning question: could a computer game really take over the world?
‘I think this depends on what ‘take over’ means,’ said James, ‘since the Cold War era its been assumed that computers can not only become conscious, but eventually become almost a kind of omniscient superconscious being. In the deep future this may very well occur. As far as a computer game, the primary method of takeover to me would be an extreme form of gamification. Making life into a game, and keeping people addicted through the pleasure of challenge and reward.’
But are we not already being brainwashed by the game and social media makers? Are they not in control of our lives?
‘As long as free speech exists, I don’t think brainwashing of a society can occur in any form,’ continued James, ‘in fact I would argue that games and media provide even more outlets to express individuality.’
Surely this is crazy. Are you saying that Facebook is better than real Face-time? That virtual friendships top real ones?
‘That depends on who you’re talking to! Facebook can occasionally cause problems, because it removes many levels of communication provided by body language. It’s easier to misinterpret just like text messages. But most of the time is a fun way to talk to people!’

James Lliff of Project Holodeck

James Lliff of Project Holodeck

Hmmm, I’m not convinced. One look around the library in Trinity College soon shows you where people’s minds are focused – on their smart phones and social media connections!
I persist with the two gaming geniuses: surely the substitution of the virtual world for the real can’t be that good?
They don’t seem too perturbed.
‘I think you are right in one point,’ says James, ‘computers have become a bigger part of life now, and the virtual world is being substituted for the real world more and more. But I see this as a positive evolution. For example, we’re not going to evolve into a species that’s addicted to computer screens and buttons – that’s just what we’ve started with. It’s not the most natural thing but it is only getting better!’
So you think the matrix is already here?
They both smile: ‘Not quite, but were getting there!’

One of the Holodeck game world environments - Tezarian Alliance by Colas Gauthier

One of the Holodeck game world environments – Tezarian Alliance by Colas Gauthier

What are your thoughts on the role of gaming and social media in the contemporary world – is it a good thing?
Vote in our poll below.
And check out Nathan and James’ website:


About Kevin Flanagan

Kevin is a journalist and writer. He edits The Sunday Independent Travel magazine and is writing a book about his time working with the legendary ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev.
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