The Matrix or the Holodeck: What will the future of gaming look like?

Gaming has come a long way since its birth only a few decades ago. But what will it look like in 10, 20, or even 30 years? Let's see what could be on the cards.
Christopher McFadden
A girl playing a computer game.


  • From the birth of gaming to the advent of online multiplayer games, gaming technology has undergone incredible transformations over the decades.
  • Yet, many predict that we are on the brink of what could be the most dramatic shift yet in the world of gaming.
  • So, what could games of the future look like?

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) promise a new era of immersive, interactive gaming experiences that blur the line between the digital and the physical, fundamentally altering how we play, interact with, and design games.

But, it doesn't stop there. Developments in neurotechnology and the gamification of fitness are opening up even more intriguing possibilities, while the influence of gaming on the film industry points to the profound cultural impact of this medium. Here we'll explore some of the cutting-edge technologies and trends shaping the future of gaming and examine how they may redefine both our virtual adventures and our real-world experiences.

Hold on tight; the future of gaming could get wild.

1. Games will continue to be on the cloud and mobile, but PC and consoles probably won't die

The advent of the mobile telephone has opened up an entirely new genre of gaming that is growing ever more popular with time. Mobile gaming has also brought interest in computer games to many demographics that may not have previously been interested in gaming.

Likewise, the rise of the internet and cloud services has completely changed how even "old school" gamers install and play games, with Steam becoming a "one-stop shop" for getting old and new titles. In fact, so commonplace is it now for gamers to download digital copies of games, rather than buying physical copies, that parts of the industry are even dispensing with outright game ownership with all players using game streaming.

Most major platforms offer some long-term rental streaming service for particular games, which is unlikely to go away in the future. This will be especially true if renting and streaming a game until you complete it is financially cheaper than buying a one-off forever license. As older gamers (who prefer to "own" a game) retire from the gaming scene in the future, it will be interesting to see if younger generations share this sentimental approach to games.

We may see a time when owning a game outright is a thing of the past.

2. Games may become more tactile and physically immersive

What most gamers and experts agree on about the future of computer games is the fact that they will become progressively more immersive and realistic. While graphics, world and character design, in-game physics, etc., have changed almost beyond recognition in only a few decades, there is still a genuine disconnect between players and the world where they spend their free time.

If a way could be found to smoothly bridge the gap between a player's "real" tactile senses (touch and perhaps also smell) and the game world, this would completely change how games are designed and played in the future. While some early attempts were made with basic gaming gloves (Nintendo released the "Power Glove" in the 1980s), shaking gaming pads, etc., these are far from full immersion.

At present, interactive gaming gloves act more like glorified wireless controls. This will remain a novelty until games are designed with full-body haptics, enabling a player to really "feel" the in-game environment. But, once one company succeeds in doing so, we will probably see another revolution in gaming. Perhaps even full-body suits could be a thing?

3. AI will play ever larger roles

The Matrix or the Holodeck: What will the future of gaming look like?
AI will play ever bigger roles in gaming.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is all the rage and has been secretly changing computer games for the last few years. AI has become integral to many modern games by making non-player characters more interesting and providing greater in-game challenges.

One of the most well-known examples was the much-vaunted "AI" xenomorph in the game "Alien Isolation." While it was claimed that the AI which drove the xenomorph was adaptive to a player's gaming style, anyone who played the game soon discovered how "smart" it was. The game did somewhat lose its appeal once you got a flamethrower. But this was a critical glimpse into what future games could become.

Eventually, playing turn-based or real-time competitive games with the computer could eventually become indistinguishable from playing with real people. AI will likely also take on more storytelling, graphics, and world-building roles. Perhaps even to a point where every player, or group of players, gets a unique experience based on a central shared storyline.

4. Games may become more immersive with VR and AR

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) offer unparalleled immersion and interactivity, giving gamers a whole new experience. But in the future, games could become physically interactive exercises as players will reach, grab, or swing to manipulate the gaming environment.

Social interaction is another area for potential transformation, as these technologies could bring players' avatars together in shared virtual spaces, allowing real-time coordination and greater non-verbal communication (this is, after all, the sales pitch for the 'Metaverse"). The game design will evolve, with developers creating 360-degree environments and devising comfortable and enjoyable games in these immersive formats.

VR and AR technology will also likely enhance training and simulation experiences, making them more realistic. Although there are some challenges to overcome, such as ensuring player comfort, developing intuitive controls, and managing the high hardware cost, the impact of AR and VR's on gaming will only increase as the technology advances and becomes more widely available.

5. Could games run inside your mind?

One theoretical future of gaming could be merging technology like Neuralink and gaming. By providing a form of brain-machine interface the technology could, in theory, eventually make it possible to "play" games inside your head. Quite what this would "feel" like is anyone's guess at this point, but some progress has been made in this direction already.

For example, Neuralink has released footage of a test subject monkey with a Neuralink implant able to play games using only its mind. However, there's a significant leap between these initial demonstrations and a fully functioning, safe, and widely used BMI for gaming.

In the future, there is a possibility that a neural interface could be utilized in gaming. Directly interacting with the user's brain could offer a more immersive experience. Users may be able to control game elements through their thoughts or receive sensory feedback directly to their brains, surpassing the immersion level of current VR/AR technology.

6. Games may become a great way to keep fit

Let's be honest, going to the gym can be a real chore. While that is the point, e.g., "no pain, no gain," the future could possibly see a more enjoyable way to keep fit. Imagine a gym (or indeed a home console) with immersive gaming that requires you to move your entire body to operate a character. Role-playing games, for example, could have the player on a moveable "floor" where they must physically walk or run to make their player do the same.

Of course, there is already a long history of this sort of thing in gaming with the advent of wireless controllers ("Wii Sports," "Pokemon Go," etc.). Still, these generally offer only limited real physical exertion of the player. Proper integration with AR/VR, fitness wearables, etc., could take this experience to the next level.

Who knows, gamers of the future could be the fittest people you ever meet!

7. Games will continue to challenge, perhaps even destroy, Hollywood

Before the advent of computers and computer games, consumers were limited to books, film, and TV for immersive fantasy. However, the rapid improvement in computer hardware has enabled an unstoppable rise in computer game quality over time, so much so that some modern games are becoming as good, if not better, than anything Hollywood can produce.

In fact, the film industry has even gone to great lengths to adapt popular computer games into films, albeit with mixed results. In many cases, however, the original computer game's storyline and "viewer" experience are far superior.

This trend is highly unlikely to change in the future, and with advancements in technology a given, we may one day see film and TV producers struggling to create something that compares to the best computer games. Suppose computer games can become ever more immersive (especially using systems like Neuralink and AR/VR). In that case, we seem to a point where cinemas and film streaming are reduced to a niche form of entertainment.

Of course, it is more likely that the two industries will merge into one —producing "Silver Screen" quality graphics and cutscenes that blend seamlessly with actual gameplay.

And that is your lot for today.

Computer games have undergone a massive revolution in quality and immersion over the years, a trend that will only likely continue unabated. New technologies and drastic improvements on existing ones will also likely completely revolutionize future games.

However, we hope there will always be a point where games are easily distinguishable from real life. Otherwise, we may find many people preferring to spend their limited time on this planet in the digital space rather than the wonder and majesty of the real world. But that is a discussion for another time.

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