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Gaming as an industry has come a long way since the days of playing Pong in your best friend’s living room. Virtual reality, augmented reality, newly redeveloped graphics, and a dedication to storytelling have made the games of today more enveloping and engaging than ever before. One of the latest developments to take the gaming industry to the next level has been the internet of things (IoT).
The internet of things is a phrase used to refer to the way in which the internet connects all devices with a computer chip inside of them. Most commonly it has to do with how a person’s smartphone connects to and communicates with other devices, be that your home computer, your personal car, or your smart watch. However, the IoT also incorporates the ways in which people connect to the devices of their friends, and when it comes to gaming, that means connecting to one another’s consoles.
The increasingly mobile nature of the IoT has enabled gaming, which was once a solitary activity, to break out into the real world as a social activity that friends and family alike can do together. This may mean games that encourage or require outdoor activity, or it may mean the gamification of social interaction or even exercise. Whatever the specific case, the fact remains that the IoT has caused ripples through the gaming industry that has changed it forever.
IoT Makes Gaming Mobile
Mobile gaming and the IoT, combined with augmented reality, have helped gamers to feel as if they’re personally inserted into the narrative of a game, providing an even deeper connection to the media. For example, popular mobile game Pokemon Go! puts the player in the position of a fictional monster trainer by making the view through their phone look as if Pokemon are in the real world. There’s hardly even any suspension of disbelief required as the Pokemon are right there in front of the user.
It used to be that in order to enjoy a game, you had to be tied to your console at home via a series of plugs and cables. Now, not only are controllers more mobile via Bluetooth technology, but many popular games sync across platforms. This means players can play on one device at home, then take the game with them via either their smartphone or tablet.
This spells out a lot of potential opportunity for profit and growth depending on the gaming model. Obviously, the more time players spend on a game, and the more successful and popular a title becomes, the greater opportunity there is for the studio to expand the property into other games or sequels. However, it is free-to-play games that will benefit most from more player hours, as the longer a player engages with their game, the more likely they are to spend small amounts on in-game upgrades and bonuses.
Another bonus of mobile gaming gaining popularity is that it makes gaming more accessible to all types of people. Gaming consoles can be expensive and are often classified as a luxury item for many households. Smartphones, however, comes in a variety of price points and regardless of income is considered a necessity.
Gamification of Non-Gaming Activities
One of the benefits of gaming mechanics being moved to IoT technologies is that areas of a person’s life that hadn’t been gamified before can now benefit from that process. For example, health and fitness apps have been experimenting with ways in which to make exercise feel like fun. The popular Zombies, Run! app pairs with a user’s fitness tracker and smartphone to make the user feel like they’re outrunning zombies and battling the apocalypse during their morning run.
Mobile gaming has also helped to gamify some aspects of education. Tablets are becoming more and more commonplace in classrooms across the country, allowing students to feel as if they’re playing games while really they’re learning important core lessons. For example, many of us may remember playing the popular Oregon Trail PC game while in elementary school, and now it’s possible for more students to play similar games at the same time without having to jostle for the computer.
Finally, popular language-learning app Duolingo uses gamification to get users to learn and practice a new language. Users earn coins and pass levels by doing daily practice and exercises. They can then buy special lesson packages or outfits for the mascot owl with the coins they earn, giving them a payoff aside from their newly acquired skills.
A Deeper (But Not Safer) Connection to Media
While Internet of Things technology creates a deeper the connection with media, it also may make it easier for users to forget about basic online safety protocols. For example, returning to Pokemon Go!, the mobile app had a vulnerability in its verification of players using Google accounts to log in. Essentially, by signing in with a Google account, users were granting the game unrestricted access to all documents, emails, photos, and information contained therein.
This means that, although IoT technologies are exciting and open up worlds of opportunity for gamers and non-gamers alike, it’s crucial to be smart in how you protect your information. The ease of logging into systems with a shared account may be appealing, but you should always be checking what permissions you’re allowing applications to have. The good news is that it is sometimes possible to limit or select which permissions you grant an application.
At the end of the day, if used smartly and correctly, the Internet of Things can make the gaming industry a place for all different types of people to connect together over a shared love of story and activity. People all over the globe can easily connect to play together from anywhere they may be at the moment — all with the push of a button. However, just like with any technology, use should be mixed with research and caution — but, with security in mind, the possibilities for storytelling and user engagement through the Internet of Things on the horizon are endless.