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Augmented Reality Games, and Their Genres

What will games on augmented reality glasses be like? What genres will stay, which won't work, and what new genres need to be invented?

With Google and competitors now developing Augmented Reality glasses, I fully expect in the next ten years we'll be playing Augmented Reality videogames, and in twenty years such glasses will be as common as smart phones.

But what will these kinds of games look like?  If the Kinect is any indication, traditional genres won't cut it.  Many reviewers of Kinect games that require the player to run in place claim that either it's hit uncanny valley, or trying to retrofit old genres with new control schemes doesn't work well.

Heck, when the NES powerglove came out, about the only thing it was useful for was racing games; everything else was much better off with a normal controller.

But the Kinect works just fine with some games, like Kinect Adventures, because the mimicry of player to onscreen-character is almost exact; no need to run in place here.

So with AR glasses, don't expect old genres to work the same.

Old Genres That Will Still Work

Puzzle Games - Tetris will always be there.  Waiting at the dentist's office?  Pop open a game of Angry Birds.

Odds are puzzle games will still work the same, just as they do on a touchscreen device; the only difference is you will make gestures in the air.  Many puzzle games will be nothing more than a window on your glasses, and won't really be ARGs.

Other puzzle games and retro arcade games may interact with the outside world.  Imagine being a passenger on a long ride, so you play a game out the window, where you fly a craft around the real obstacles outside, like fences, mountains, signs, trees, buildings, or other cars.

Like these kinds of games today, puzzle games and quick-fix arcade games will be "timewasters" just as much in the future.

Adventure Games - I see a huge comeback for this near-extinct genre.  These will become an extension of Alternate Reality Games, but here they will be tailored to the area you live in.  Perhaps you give a starting location and a radius, and the game generates characters, objects, and puzzles that only you see, but can be spread anywhere within your defined space.  They will start off simple, such as creating a game of Hide-and-Seek with an object (find the treasure chest hidden somewhere on your property), and will grow in scope, allowing multiple players in the same game, and offering more intricate puzzles and deep storylines.

Sports Games - Non-contact sports, anyway.  If you and three friends want to get together in a park and play a game of Virtual Bocce, or go Bowling in an empty parking lot, you'll be able to.  For that matter, you'll be able to play Chess on an empty table, and anyone hooked into your game can watch through their own glasses, even if they aren't participating.


Old Genres That Won't Work

First-Person Shooters - I know, I know; this is the thing we all wish we could have.  Since I first heard of the concept of ARGs, I've wanted to play a first-person shooter or survival/horror game.  Unfortunately, even if the guns are virtual, the fast-paced nature of the genre means you'd be running around a city, paying attention to the game and not traffic.

Contact Sports - Sure, you'll love to be able to play basketball even if there's no hoop available, but glasses and contact sports don't mix.  You'd need to bring goggles to go over your glasses, and even then I wouldn't want to chance it.  Delicate technology and a hard fall mean there won't be a big market for it.  Street Hockey nets will remain just as popular as always, and AR glasses won't change that.


New Genres

LAMMARGs - Live Action Role-Playing isn't a videogame exactly, but it will be.  LARPing and MMOs will mix into Live Action Massively Multiplayer Augmented Reality Games (we'll work on the acronym).  Players won't need to dress up, and fighting will be much rarer, but they will take fantasy worlds we've only seen on screens and in our heads and merge them with reality.  This will be the logical extension of Adventure Games mentioned above, and will likely evolve from them, rather than being created with the idea of an MMO in mind.

Board Game Hybrids - Similar to Virtual Chess explained above, new board games and miniatures games will utilize the environment to play a live game of Monster In My Pocket, or Virtual Warhammer 40K.  You would no longer need a flat surface to lay out a board, but instead your uneven surface could be overlayed with a 3D board.  Many Augmented Reality games are already close, such as ARhrrrr, or the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots app.

But imagine you're at a bar with some friends, and the table is littered with empty glasses and bottles.  The table could be transformed in your vision to a grassy field, and the empties become trees and bushes.  Then you and your friends march armies of orcs to the middle and attack, using gestures and non-interfering hand movements (to minimize the chance of knocking over drinks).

I am sure there will be many more new genres as the technology becomes more popular, beginning with these simple hybrids.  What genres can you think of that might be exclusive to AR glasses?  What old genres might still work, and what genres will need to be revised or canned?

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