It’s difficult to argue with someone who isn’t familiar with PC gaming that consoles aren’t the driving force behind games. For the last two generations of consoles, the term “gaming” has immediately conjured up images of holding a controller and sitting in front of the TV.
Ken Levine, co-founder, President, and Creative Director of Irrational Games would care to disagree.
While the personal computer seems to have experienced little change over the past decade to a casual observer – many of the consoles and properties that we define as “game-changers” can trace their roots back to the PC. Speaking with Kotaku, Levine went even further, saying that anyone who wishes to see the future of both the technology and marketplace of gaming need look no further than their own desktop.
Given the success and social impact of recent innovations like Twitter, Facebook, and Steam, it’s not surprising that many industry leaders are examining what the PC can offer. Consoles have received the most attention and focus for years, meaning the role that the PC plays in modern gaming is in need of refinement. PC gaming can offer many unique positives, and can even build new business models that can achieve unrivalled profitability.
Levine doesn’t agree that the most important question is which facet of PC gaming holds the future. The thing to remember is – the future lies in the PC:
“The PC will always be the place that drives innovation. The PC is the place where great game developers are born, even–and maybe especially–where great console game developers are born. Halo, Mass Effect, Call of Duty…PC developers first. And it’s on the PC where the leading-edge ideas form, primarily because the barrier of entry is low.”
Levine sees the PC as it was seen when it was first introduced – as an equalizer. Since the early days of modding, it became clear the PC offered every owner the tools required to create an entire game concept on a scale that had previously been unattainable for many. Inevitably, giving an equal opportunity can result in both good and bad, but Levine thinks that should never be seen as a downside:
“Sometimes it’s a disaster. In fact, usually it is. Most ideas are terrible. But sometimes it’s Steam. And sometimes it’s modding. And sometimes it’s Minecraft. And then we all, gamers and developers, get to high-five the universe and think about how lucky we are.”
With blockbuster successes constantly pulling attention to the major consoles, it’s easy to forget where creativity originates. Levine knows a bit about creativity in gaming, creating the critical and financial success BioShock. Irrational looks to build upon that success with its spiritual successor BioShock: Infinite; a game that Levine promises will “blow our minds.”
From the first look at gameplay, they might accomplish just that.
PCs have not only changed the way we play games, but how we think about games. How could we have gotten to the level of diversity we currently enjoy without expanding creative authority to the masses? On an even greater level, gaming has begun to change the way we think about buying and selling digital products. In Levine’s mind, one need look no further than the world of PCs to get a glimpse of what’s yet to come:
“Here’s something you can take the bank: If you want to know the future of gaming, buy a PC. And pay attention. Because above all, that thing on your desk is a crystal ball.”
We need only look at World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, The Old Republic, and Diablo III to see that consoles don’t have a monopoly when it comes to top-level gaming. How strange it is to think that even after all this time, the PC still has more than a few surprises left to give. If Levine is to be believed, then PCs will always hold a unique place in gaming.
Stay tuned to your own crystal ball to find out just how right he is.