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In collaboration with Retro Report

Future of Gaming

With revenues topping $100 billion a year, the video game industry is poised to be this century’s dominant form of entertainment. As games become more addictive and expensive to play, how will they transform our social relationships as well as our leisure time?

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Retro ReportFuture of Gaming

Where We Thought We’d Be

Think you can predict the future? These experts from the past got it right—or wonderfully wrong.

  • 1979

    Pining for pinball

    Gus Bally, an executive at the old-school game company Arcade Inc., wasn’t worried about video games usurping their analog product: “People won’t want to play these electronic games for more than a week,” Bally said, “not once we start selling pinball machines for the home.”

  • 1991
    Esports fans react as they watch on from the stands.

    Extraterrestrial

    In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Game,” commander William Riker brings a nefarious souvenir back from the planet Risa. It’s an alien video game—and it’s so stimulating that almost the entire crew becomes addicted to it. “The game initiates a serotonin cascade in the frontal lobe of the brain,” Lieutenant William Crusher realizes. “It could explain why everyone is so attracted to it.”

  • 1994
    Visitors play "Heroes of the Storm", developed by video game producer Blizzard Entertainment.

    Dreams of the '90s

    Wired magazine’s extensive coverage of “MUD games,” in which players congregate in a virtual world, addressed growing concerns that such games might have a serious social cost. Players described meeting their internet providers’ 30-hour-per-month limit (!), dreaming about the games, and putting their virtual life “ahead of almost everything else—social life, job, etc.” Playing MUDs, they conclude, “is becoming the addiction of the '90s.”

  • 2005

    Game Over

    The Chinese government foresaw an epidemic of video-game addiction—and thought the solution would be to stymie it through legislation. With support of local internet companies, an “anti-online game addiction system” reduced the number of bonuses players could win after they’d been playing for three hours. “You have entered unhealthy game time,” warned the online notice. “Please go offline immediately to rest. If you do not, your health will be damaged and the benefits you can win will be cut to zero.“

  • 2017
    Attendees look at their phones as they wait in line to check out new gaming software at E3.

    Gen Z addicts

    A study in the journal Advanced Engineering Technology and Application warns of a dawning social apocalypse with gaming addicts at the root. They foresee young men (and women) dropping out of the workforce as a result of their addiction, which will lead to an avalanche of related economic effects: drops in GDP, a depression in goods and services markets, and an “inability to start and form stable households.”