In this week's Cybershake, we take a look at what video game developers are working on for future digital fun. Plus, we note there's a new online tool for parents looking for the perfect summer camp for their kids.
Animated apes, blazing rocket ships, and spell-casting wizards in magical worlds may all be part of the fun of video games. But creating those delightful digital distractions is a serious global business -- one that nets more than $10 billion in sales annually.
To keep the industry on the cutting edge, thousands of computer programmers, software engineers, designers, executives, and industry luminaries gathered at the annual Game Developers' Conference in San Francisco this week.
"This is the world's largest event devoted to game creation," says Jamil Moledina, director of the conference. "This is where the world game developers come together to share ideas about the future of games."
Among the hot conference topics that excite designers today is the impending changes in computer hardware. While PCs continue to evolve rapidly, so too are home video game systems such as Sony's PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox.
At the conference, Sony executives discussed the company's new Cell processor, an advanced microchip that will be used in Sony's next generation game system.
But it wasn't only about geeky hardware and software at this year's conference. Another topic that gathered interest among programmers: working conditions at software publishing companies. This year, at least two game publishers are facing lawsuits by employees who were allegedly forced to work overtime to produce games without additional compensation.
Addressing such quality-of-life issues is important, says Moledina, since game makers will be busier than ever in the coming years. Not only are designers creating more titles for a growing number of computers and game systems, but they're building games that promise a much broader appeal.
"There's so much going on that can be called a game these days that it's just phenomenal," says Moledina. "We have games that involve a lot more drama, involve a lot more character development. [We're] really borrowing [entertainment] elements from the film industry."
And with the software game business now outstripping both the movie and music industries combined, it isn't just programmers and software publishers that are shaping the future of video games.
"We have speakers from film, from design, from music as well as [from the] game [industry] to talk about the future of interactive entertainment," says Moledina. "There's just so much wealth of ideas that developers have to play with... It's about creating games that appeal to different community of people."
Such collective industry "brainstorming" will produce games that move beyond the traditional genre of games that appealed to mainly 14-year-old boys. And while forthcoming games might take on a more cinematic and multimedia nature, Moledina believes there will still be simple yet addictive puzzle games such as Tetris.
"There's a game for every developer to make and there's a game for every player to play," says Moledina.
-- Larry Jacobs, ABC News