Computer Game Design: from the lonely individual to the very heart of society

Over the last 25 years, there has been a huge growth from the simple computer games created by individuals and small independent groups in the early eighties, to a massive commercial computer and video games industry involving many established multinational companies with assets in the film, television, software and telecommunications markets.

During the course of this expansion, digital games have evolved in genre and design to become complex experiential-narrational texts that dramatically alter the way we understand stories and information. Moreover, they have developed from their foundations in single-user arcade and desktop-based entertainment to become, at the contemporary edge of the spectrum, 'pervasive games', that is, mobile multi-user performance events played out on 'maps' that are formed out of the urban environment itself, e.g. Blast Theory's 'Can You See Me Now?' and Simon and Simon's "Stag Hunt".

This enormous technological and creative shift has been accompanied by efforts to use computer gaming to address a much broader spectrum of issues beyond entertainment and art - most notably in applications associated with learning, training and commerce but also for political-propagandistic purposes. In short computer games have moved to the forefront of cultural, as well as technological innovation and now fundamentally affect the way we play, socialise, learn, and even politic (see Obama's use of in-game advertising in Burnout).

Some of the most important current developments centred around games and internet technology are the growth of social networking sites and MMOs - Massive Multiplayer Online games. These have seen computers move from being the domain of the lonely individual into to the very heart of society. A parallel development - that of user-generated content -has seen the growth of growth of "hobbyist" teams adapting and developing games using commercially available material both as inspiration, source and tool. These advances, coupled with the growth of handheld/mobile gaming, all point to the continued vibrancy of the gaming scene.

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