The most popular video games today have one thing in common: They never end. Rather than traditional games with a beginning, middle and end, many of these video games are more like online worlds, where players can participate whenever and for however long they like, with success measured in achievements instead of a single, finite objective.
Infinite gameplay means you never have to log off, and you’ll never defeat the final boss. In these never-ending games, players can also take part in hybrid real-world experiences like going to a concert or even buying real estate.
Infinite gameplay sheds light on the hardware and software needs we might encounter as our lives shift more and more online, and the increasingly immersive and durational experience of online gaming.
Never-ending games are nothing new. Virtual world Second Life was launched all the way back in 2003, and The Sims and Minecraft are examples of longstanding games that allow players to build their own realities. More recent titles like Fortnight and League of Legends are universes that players can log into at any time for a fully immersive and interactive break from the real world.
Classic games like Super Mario, Pokemon and Grand Theft Auto are being redesigned and re-released in this unrestricted format to the delight of gamers everywhere.
How do you “win” a game if it has no end? Newer game design elements perfect addiction triggers and dopamine rewards to shape and alter our psychological state and behavior. Our lives will be increasingly gamified, as never-ending games merge with the activities that already form part of our lives. Connected exercise platforms, such as Peloton bikes, use built-in game elements (badges, contests and leaderboards). Meditation apps like Headspace nudge and reward us (somewhat paradoxically) to engage with them. Workplace optimization tools also encourage us to strive for new achievements, with progress and rewards being symbolized in digital form.
In the future, never-ending games will blur the line between the multiple digital spaces we inhabit, be they personal, professional or social.
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