Right now it’s safe to say that Virtual Reality (VR) is redefining gaming like no other force out there. On the other hand though Augmented Reality (AR) is due to arrive in 5 – 10 years, so how will gaming change when it’s here? What new games and new breeds of gamers can we expect? Pokemon Go is the first little glimpse of that future according to Mark Shovman, who explains more in their Casual Connect Tel Aviv session,
Two years ago Mark Shovman began working at the startup of Eyeway Vision after a phone call from an old friend. Eyeway Vision had just secured their round A funding and began looking for someone with experience in vision research with hands-on experimental methods. While Mark is still doing much of the same thing, today their work focuses mainly on AR UX, “designing and testing compelling experiences for next generation AR systems.”
Growing up Mark spent their years reading what they call “far too much Soviet sci-fi”, hoping to become a space explorer. Because of that it shouldn’t come as a surprise to discover that what they enjoy most about the job with Eyeway Vision is the sci-fi feel of it. They describe, “We’re looking so far beyond the cutting edge, so questions of technology, philosophy and ethics pop up equally often – and need to be answered. And the team is fantastic, very interdisciplinary, each one an expert in their own field.”
Where People and Tech Meet
After finishing school Mark started training to be a programmer, but discovered people were more interesting than code. In fact, this discovery was the inspiration for their career. After this realization they switched to experimental psychology and gained a rather unusual mix of skills: some programming, some psychology and quite a lot of research methods. As it turned out, this skillset is very useful wherever people and tech meet: UX, AR/VR, social networks and games.
While Mark never actually considered a career in the game industry, they were a gamer since the age of 10 and their family had one of the first computers in their city, a Soviet clone of an IBM PC. This computer was the envy of all Mark’s friends and playing games became their favorite activity after reading books.
Research and Teaching
When Mark began studying for their PhD in researching visual perception and VR data visualization, at the University of Albertay Dundee in Scotland, their direction changed. Because their university was focused on computer games, Mark naturally became involved in games research and teaching.
Mark describes studying for this PhD as a great journey, especially when they completed it and saw the results, “a thick book filled with results of my own work and curiosity.” But they are always looking towards the next great moment: when they get the next AR prototype up and running.
Interestingly enough what Mark calls “free time” is best spent doing what most people would consider work; teaching classes at the Hebrew University. “Computer games technology for computer science students, and an experimental module we call Reality++, about all things AR and VR for Masters of Design program in Bezalel art academy”, said Mark. Other than work they also enjoy spending time with their wife and children, as well as doing Tai Chi, swimming, hiking and playing RPGs (computer, tabletop and live action).
VR and AR Changing the Ecosystem
Together VR and AR are bringing significant changes to the gaming ecosystem and environment. Because VR is so immersive and intense, genres that were already pushing the level of intensity like shooters and horror games will need to tone down somewhat in Mark’s opinion. By a similar token atmospheric immersive games, similar to Mark’s example of Dear Esther, will become much more fun and popular.
AR is about being present in the real, physical world. This means the game industry will have to look to experiences that are about being there. Mark suggests sports, live action roleplay, sightseeing, all sorts of body-based fun such as running and dancing are potential avenues with appeal in the AR world. At the same time they see possibilities for new types of gamers to become involved. “I have a dream that one day AR will unite the two eternal enemies – the nerds and the jocks – creating games that are both physical and virtual. Zombie Run is a great example of this.”
New Trends and Considerations
Mark sees many new trends in the game industry coming into play over the next few years. One such trend that excites Mark is 3D printing. In the future Mark hopes it will become cheap and ubiquitous so customized game accessories, such as game pieces, controllers, or actual physical badges for achievements, will become an option for gamers.
They also believe that there’s many things which are important for those in the game industry to discuss, and fortunately as a lecturer he has opportunities to do so. Among the things we should all think about are game ethics, the difference between fun and happiness, the education of the next generation of game developers, and even the AR gamers.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.