What Happens Next
In a future where the virtual world feels as substantial as the real one, these seven gaming experts—from professional athletes to data scientists—explore a society where the controllers are in control.
Helen ChiangHead of Minecraft
The head of Minecraft on the role collaborative gaming will play in the future
Damon PackwoodCo-founder and executive director of Gameheads
The era of white male games for white male gamers is ending
África PeriáñezCEO of Yokozuna Data
The next generation of video games will use AI to personalize your experience
Frank LantzDirector of the NYU Game Center
Video games teach us systems literacy—the literacy of the future
Where We Thought We’d Be
Think you can predict the future? These experts from the past got it right—or wonderfully wrong.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.“
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.”
More from What Happens Next
Future of Aging
By 2020, people over age 65 will outnumber children under age 5. Humanity faces an urgent question on an unprecedented scale: How do we care for an aging population who can’t work, and harness the contributions of those who can?
Future of College
While the internet has made online learning virtually free, the price of traditional teaching is still soaring. When the job market is transforming more quickly each year, how can we reinvent education to keep up?
Future of Water
The world’s supply of cheap and clean water will likely plummet as the climate warms and populations boom. Can we find ways to conserve, cut waste, and find new sources before it’s too late?
Future of Home
Technology is transforming homes all over the world. In some places, cheap devices are powering and connecting homes long left off the grid. In others, newly automated and networked machines are reinventing convenience—but at what cost to privacy and human connection?
Future of Work
If automation continues at its current pace, 400 million workers around the globe will be displaced by 2030. In spite of the vast economic effects these changes will bring, will we seize the opportunity to reconceive the very meaning of work?
Future of Food
As global climate change worsens and the population expands, humanity must produce more food in the next 50 years than it has in the past 10,000. Are lab-made meat and automation the key to farming in the future, or must we tend to the soil we already have?
Future of Cities
By 2050, nearly 10 billion people will share our planet. As mega-cities rise and technology reshapes the urban landscape, how will these changes affect the vast majority of the world’s poor?
Future of Money
Anarchy reigns supreme in the future of finance, decentralizing the power of banks and, in some cases, the state. But will cryptocurrencies and the blockchains that underlie them solve our financial woes, or only worsen existing inequalities?
Future of Fact
Online manipulation and immersive media have begun to eradicate our shared notion of authenticity and trust. How will society change when we can no longer believe what we see, hear, or think?