Solid State Gaming & Beyond
As mentioned in my previous article, traditional battery-based gaming is now a relic of the past, with replacement batteries swiftly becoming an inconvenient and cumbersome way of keeping game files alive on outdated hardware. How then to keep game files alive?
Solid state electronics. Strictly speaking, solid state electronics are any electronics more advanced than a vacuum tube, so technically, NES, SNES, Genesis, Gameboy and other cartridge game types fall into this category as is.
When the average gamer thinks of the word ‘solid state,’ however, usually the subject in mind is a memory device, such as an SD card. Now, these devices, while useful, have their limits. For starters, SD cards are notoriously easy to lose or damage, and are prone to spontaneous data erasure for no particular reason. As I mentioned in my previous article, I can remember countless stories from friends and colleagues of data inexplicably lost from memory cards. Clearly a better alternative must exist.
Luckily, that better alternative is all around us: cloud computing.
With the advent of social media (i.e. Facebook, Google+, etc.,) people are more and more ‘in touch’ with each other online every day. There isn’t a major media outlet that doesn’t embrace social networking in some way. From film studios releasing Internet-exclusive content with most or all of their products to TV networks streaming their shows on sites like Hulu and Netflix, to gaming companies hosting games on platforms such as Steam, Oracle and even Facebook, (to say nothing of browser-based, iPhone, iPod, tablet, reader and more,) we are more ‘in touch’ with our data and the rest of the community (whatever that community may be) than ever before… and it’s only going to grow even more entwined from here on out.
Cloud computing: the foundation that browsers such as Google Chrome are built off of. A fully interactive browser that may be tailored to the individual’s unique preferences and tastes, complete with extensions, applications, bookmarks, themes and more, all able to be ported from machine to machine with a simple login screen, accessible to any machine with the browser installed. Gaming is also going in this direction, with cloud-based services including Steam and Oracle. Steam, certainly the largest name in PC (and now Mac!) cloud gaming, adapted eaerly to the Cloud, allowing players to upload and download their stats, achievements, and data from one machine to another with the proper login credentials. The consoles weren’t far behind, with Microsoft launching their Live service, which allowed players to play with each other from all the way across the world, upload/download stats, info, special promotions and content, and even tap into the Independant game market, from the comfort of their own TV screen. Sony has especially embraced the technology, launching first the PSP, and now the PSVITA, both cloud-enabled handheld media platforms.
A quick note on handheld devices: as I briefly mentioned earlier, emulators and roms are indeed legitimate (and paradoxically illegitimate and illegal) sources for gamers to take their favorite games along with them wherever they go. Again, I’m not speaking to the legitimacy of such practices; however, I will say that as time goes on I’m more and more of the opinion that big name media providers are going to see that, in order to be competitive in the market, they’re going to need to reevaluate their views on certain, shall we say, ‘outdated’ copyright law. (I’m not condoning stealing software, just to be perfectly clear here; I’m saying that freeware is never going to go away and eventually the big conglomerates are going to have to realize this.)
Back to cloud computing:
With our social networks growing ever more tangled each day, it’s only natural that our gaming be a large part of that. A few months ago, the developers of the famous Unreal game engine revealed that the Unreal engine had been made able to run inside of a Flash window, which leads many hungry game designers to now jump up to the plate and begin developing Flash-based games utilizing this powerhouse of an engine to produce their own freeware social media game experiences… all accessible via Facebook, which is one of the most Flash-happy Sites in all the social media sea. (Although, with the advent of HTML5, we will see how much longer Flash will continue to be viable…)
To conclude, cloud computing is quickly dominating the traditional gaming market; why would anyone carry around outdated flash cards, game packs, and even CDs, when every scrap of data pertaining to their entire gaming life is accessible from any ethernet-enabled device with a few simple keystrokes?