Games Of 2020 - The Winners

What will games be like in the year 2020? Gamasutra's competition gave away 20 GDC All-Access Passes and had more than 150 excellent entries -- here are the winning essays.

In the recent "Games of 2020" competition, Gamasutra, plus sister websites GameCareerGuide and GameSetWatch challenged readers to envision what kind of video games would be played in the year 2020.

As part of the challenge, the 20 best entries -- whether complex, clever, impish, genuine, or anywhere in between -- were awarded with All-Access GDC Passes, collectively worth over $40,000.

Entrants were tasked with naming a game that will be popular or cutting-edge tech in 2020. Contestants then needed to describe how the game is controlled, as well as its chief design concepts and innovations.

Entries were judged based on their strengths in concept, realism, and evolution of current gaming trends. It's expected that many of today's most popular genres will still thrive in the year 2020, after all, but the ways in which they are played could be quite different.

For the purpose of the competition, we presumed that the most cutting-edge games of 2020 may feature many of the same mechanics of today's games, but would include different control methods and varying degrees of lifestyle integration.

The 'Games of 2020' prizes are awarded thanks to Green Label Gaming. The Mountain Dew-backed gaming label is heavily supporting innovative gaming at GDC this year, and is committed to empowering emerging talent in the industry.

(In addition to the GDC All-Access passes, Green Label Gaming is adding $10,000 to the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at the Independent Games Festival, to make the IGF's top prize $30,000 this year.)

What follows are the 20 winning entries, from an amazing set of over 150 entries, as judged by Gamasutra's editors. All details and descriptions are provided by the original authors. We encourage non-winning entrants to post their entry in Gamasutra's new blogs section.


Submitted By: Jeremy Johnston

So let me tell you about my day.

I hopped on the bus, and pulled out my GEO. 5:02. Plenty of time. Touching the icon marked PvP, the GPS loaded up and checked the immediate area, but nobody even close to my level showed up. Just some low level kids in a car going the other way (What kind of terrible parents let them set their profile to public anyways?) and a small group getting breakfast in the restaurant on the corner. I've been playing for too long to even care about wiping the floor with the lowbies, but breakfast did sound like a good idea.

I touched the PvP button again to make sure I didn't find myself unexpectedly challenged and brought up the promotions overlay. Of course, the restaurant with that group we were rapidly pulling away from was on the list. Should have known, I guess. Too late for that, I wasn't going back for what was most likely a potion or some coupon for half off coffee. I hate coffee. Turning the screen counterclockwise to zoom out, I saw another location on the way to the event. Fast food wasn't really what I wanted, but the promotions were usually good.

I got off the bus a few stops early, knowing that the walking might level me just a little bit more before noon. I considered jogging, but the cardio bonus wasn't worth it. I strapped the GEO back to my belt. No need to waste the battery life, since most likely any recharge stations that actually happened to be working would be in use.

Halfway there, I felt the long singular buzz that meant I was being challenged by an NPC fighter. I held up the GEO and turned on camera mode. The view from the lens on the back appeared on the screen, and panning the camera around revealed a man in a robe holding a staff in between the cars parked across the street. I lowered the camera just to verify that he wasn't really there (You never know the lengths cosplayers will go to on a day like today) and decided that his minuscule percentage to drop anything I want combined with my hunger made the choice easy.

I got to the entrance and pulled my GEO back out. "5:39" chirped the kitty. "Good Morning!".

Looking at the line of patrons with the same idea as me, I disagreed. Still plenty of time, but did I want to waste that much of it here? It was at that point I realized that I hadn't checked the PvP in this area. I flipped on the switch, and realized that the girl two people in front of me, LayzerPennguin, was about my level. Perfect.

I sent her a challenge to a pets only matchup, since Blackwing seemed like he was on the verge of leveling. I saw her look down at her buzzing GEO (one long buzz indicating a challenge) and press a button. The fact that she only hit one button let me know the contents of the message before I got it. "Try Again Later, Challenge Denied". Getting Talcd is nothing new, although I wondered why she would mark herself ready for PvP just to lose experience Talcing me. As I contemplated that, the sound of buzzing filled the room. I felt a series of short buzzes that meant that apparently, 5:45 was polling time today.

I turned off PvP (wouldn't make that mistake twice) and took a moment to glance around the room. LayzerPennguin didn't even bother with hers as she was ordering her food, but twelve or thirteen others did. Good news for me, since the more people locally who entered, the bigger the region prize was. I answered the question about the color of my first bike, just in time to make it to the front of the line while the polls were closing.

I slide the GEO into the automated ordering machine and it gave me my options. The sausage burrito was already sold out, which was unfortunate, since the posters and stickers everywhere told me it was the breakfast item of the month, and came with the best chances of finding a rare item. I picked the bacon burrito instead, and after paying (cash, not GEO money), a mystery box appeared on the screen. I popped my GEO out of the machine and sat down for lunch. The mystery box ended up being a dollar off my subscription fee for that month. Not terrible by any means, but I'd definitely had better.

Ironically, that was also an accurate description of the burrito.

Once I was back on the bus, I tapped the globe that formed the O in the GEO logo, bringing me to the worldwide info screen. Turns out that black (which happened to be the color of my first bike) wasn't randomly chosen, and there was no way I could be my region's lottery winner that day.

Out of mild curiosity, I looked up the current worldwide connection numbers, seeing a flurry of fluctuating activity in the middle east. Made sense, since while it was still (too) early in the morning here, it would be early in the evening there. The bus went into a long tunnel, and I lost my connection to the GEO satellite, booting me back to the local screen.

I hit the button to switch back to the local detection functions. The GEO connected to someone a block or two away, who luckily had his GPS capabilities intact. Back in business. I used him to bring back up my PvP map, and to find a dueling partner. With how today's events had been going so far, I found it surprising I didn't get Talc'd. The alternating short-long-short buzz meant combat was about to begin. Finally.

xBlueGreenBluex's first mistake was accepting a pets only battle without sizing up both of our pet selections. (I admit I was so desperate to level up Blackwing that this paragraph could have easily started with "My first mistake") All of his pets, while extremely powerful in melee fights, had very limited range on their attacks. Sending Blackwing airborne allowed the timing window against for dodging melee attacks to become super loose.

Combining flying with my skill at timing dodges (When I first started I used to shake the GEO so hard my arms would be sore after a day of battling, but now I realize it's all in the wrist), I ended up gaining the "untouchable" bonus exp. I felt bad for winning so quickly in such an unfair match however, so I emailed him a pet potion to recover. It was definitely worth it, and Blackwing leveled up. Victory! I turned off PvP.

By the time the battle was over, I was almost at my destination. I prepared myself for the series of events to come by buying a few extra super potions and making sure my armor was in top condition. I double checked the camera, and it seemed to be in working order. Lastly, I switched to my second battery, just in case, and tested to make sure it had full charge. I was ready.

I stepped off the bus into the crowded mass of players. I had already bought my ticket into the amusement park beforehand, so I skipped the massive line and headed through the gate. As I walked through, my GEO buzzed letting me know I had been counted in attendance and received a ticket I could redeem for special gear. I glanced at the estimated number of PvP flagged players in the general area: 1680. My jaw dropped.

While exploring the theme park and checking out all of the high level battles, I came across a few hundred players gathered around a small group. Upon closer inspection, I didn't even need to pull out my local scanner to know who they were. Chad and John Welker, who ylou may recognize from the U.S. leaderboards. If you've looked any time in the past year, you would have seen them at the top. Their guild is the stuff of legends, and they are the reason. Highest level, highest gear, highest pets, highest everything. So good that they have already earned everything in the game for free, and have been able to make a good living solely off of GEO. And here I was, in their presence. Unbelievable.

Without a doubt, it was at that moment that I realized why everybody who had ever been to one of the monthly event had told me I needed to attend, even if I felt I had no chance of winning. Because as I was crowding the brothers Welker with everyone else, that was the moment the Bat Dragon appeared. I didn't realize what was happening at first because I had never felt that buzzing pattern before, but soon they were shouting orders. I pulled out my GEO, loaded the camera, aimed in the same general direction as everyone else, and there it was.

By now you've heard what happened with the Bat Dragon. It took us three hours to take it (and all of the other random spawning mobs) down, and the brothers eventually had to split up to the different halves of the theme park, since the Dragon would flee and regenerate when it was being attacked by 10,000 players or more. I followed John's group, and when the beast was finally slain, it was revealed that I was one of 846 players who survived without having to be resurrected. Which means I've reluctantly replaced my GEO's kitty with a special edition Lizard.

It was the single most amazing experience of my life, and the only thing that can top it is next month.

Saturday, April 11th, 2020
Location: TBD after bidding
Price: Location Admission + $200
Will you be there?

-Posted from Superrodan's GEO on 3/4/20

Paper Planes

Submitted By: Tarl Telford

Imagination is our greatest natural resource. Feel free to recycle. Or, if you prefer, fold, bend, spindle, and mutilate. It's only paper. Got a dream? Put it on paper.

Paper Planes is the incredible new Massive Online Community (MOC) - the first of its kind to implement console ScrollUp integration. Never again will you look at gameplay as a solitary journey. Imagine a community of creative dreamers, just like you. You'll find every type of player here in Paper Planes. Wander through vast landscapes of user generated content. Interact with other players in museums or challenge a gargantuan mecha to an origami deathmatch in the arena in the Waste Paper Lands.

Where other MOCs give you toolsets to create your space, Paper Planes gives you paper – and plenty of it. Limited world interaction will be a thing of the past after you discover the amazing power of the Spindle Engine, powered in part by the robust Crumple Algorithm.

With your imagination as a toolset and a ScrollUp in your hands, you make your future.

Control Devices

ScrollUp Screenpaper – flexible, bendable, creaseable plastic game screen. Hard to believe that just a decade ago, these flexible screens were considered a rarity. Now with full microLEDs and nanocircuitry, you can take your creations with you. Just synch with your mobile device and bring your creative tools with you wherever you go.

The current model ScrollUp with the Origamix2.1 upgrade allows you to store up to 10,000 models from our database. Whether you're in the middle of a game or waiting for the latest download, just unroll your screen and choose your model. The LEDs will light up, showing where to fold the ScreenPaper. If you're feeling especially creative, you can experiment on your own and save your creations with a single button press. Upload your models to your album or our museum through our encrypted datastream. When you're finished, ScrollUp reverts to its flat state with a single command.

In its flat state, the ScrollUp can function as both a controller and a viewing screen. For controlling movement, just move your fingers in the direction you wish to go. Program the interface for a control keyboard, or shape the item into a joystick. There are truly endless possibilities for this adaptive controller.

As a screen, this unit has infinitely expandable potential for gameplay and advertising. If you pick up a piece of paper in-game to manipulate, the ScrollUp assumes that color. If you rip an advertisement out of an in-game magazine, it assumes that material, allowing for custom folding if you wish to preserve a certain area of the page.

TipTop Gloves – wireless fingertip controllers allow the user to manipulate in-game objects, from folding new origami objects to launching attacks in the Waste Paper Arena. The motion and spatial sensory transmitters in the gloves communicate location, speed, force and grip to the console, allowing precise digital manipulation of in-game objects.

With microLEDs built into the TipTops, eye-hand coordination becomes easier. Searching your memory for a particular fold for a model? Let the TipTops guide your fingers. With intuitive flash patterns these gloves can walk you through even the most difficult origami model. Once the finger LEDs are completely lit, you have completed the movement.

Game World

The world of Paper Planes could best be described as a book of maps. The Planes are separated by walls of aether. This keeps the various sections of the community able to come and go at will. Good fences make good neighbors. Each plane has certain user restrictions, much like user-generated content on wikis and other community websites. The permissions are View Only, Collaborate, Edit, and Delete / Destroy. These are decided on a Plane level by the administrators, but on a local level by the individual users.

For users that enjoy creating original origami content, but don't want to see their creations edited or destroyed, they may set up their home in a View Only plane. For competitive aggressors there are areas of constant chaos and battle. For lurkers who just like to see what's new, the options are also available.

While the community has grown tremendously since launch, the primary Planes that you may currently explore are:

* Waste Paper Lands – arena combat, scavengers and chop shops. Collaboration, editing and destruction at will.

* Dinotopia – danger around every crumpled corner. Monsters of all sorts and battles galore. Collaboration and editing only.

* Faerie Wilds – mystical creatures, fantastic gardens and more. Viewers and Collaboration with permission only.

* Urbania – Find pop culture upgrades and customizations here. Advertisers wanted. Collaboration and editing only.

* Home of the Muses – museums of previous creations, galleries of user content. Viewing only.

* Shoptropolis – storefronts for third-party created content. View Only. Paypal.

In each of these planes you'll find users that have made their base of operations. This has its drawbacks, depending on the End User License Agreement (EULA) of the Plane. With every plane there are mandatory control schemes enforced by the console. For example, when users pass from one plane to another, they agree to be bound by the EULA - which changes the configuration of their controls. So a giant paper robot dinosaur cannot enter into the Faerie Wilds and stomp on everything. Their player controls would be configured to the allowable control scheme for that plane (View Only – stop to smell the paper roses).

With the EULA carefully guarding player interactions in the various Planes, griefing disappears almost entirely.

These can be viewed top down for regional navigation with the game search features. Travel Maps plugins easily make the jump from reporting real-time traffic to guiding game players from place to place. Enter your search destination. Enter your start point. Follow the path. If you desire a ground-view path, it can appear right in front of you.

Each plane has a quest-line that you can follow to increase experience, gain aether and upgrade your collection. Completed quests win the player experience and aether points.

(Paper Planes' full game design document can be downloaded here.)


Submitted By: David R. Lorentz

The development of gaming in the next eleven years will be revolutionary but quiet. The technological arms race will begin to slow down, hampered by skyrocketing development costs and diminishing returns. In its place, smaller games with a broader range of dramatic theme will emerge.

Games will come into their own as a dramatic form, and begin to settle into their place beside music, novels, theater, and films. Many of today's arbitrary barriers will fall—those between the online and the offline, the real and the digital, the social and the mechanical. Styles and platforms will merge, and creators will come from everywhere.

As games' cultural significance broadens, their pervasiveness in everyday life will deepen. The continuing development of mobile technology, and the explosion of wearable, trackable tech, will interface the social world with the digital world, merging ARGs with traditional video games, and bringing large-scale gaming to the streets. Popular games will be cultural phenomena, discussed among friends and analyzed by art critics.

A popular game in 2020 is titled Fate. Like a lot of games of its era, it combines a simple gameplay mechanic with an integrated narrative theme, and extends a structured single-player experience to an open social game. A description of the game's central mechanics, and an analysis of each mechanic as a reflection on the state of games in 2020, follows.

Mechanic 1: Programming a robot


Fate begins as a single-player experience, consisting of a tightly structured gameplay experience that presents clear rules and consequences to the player. It is a simple tile-based puzzle game, with narrative elements intertwined.

The player is charged with using a deck of cards to program a robot with if-then statements (for instance, if there is a wall ahead, then turn left), then setting the robot free to autonomously navigate obstacle courses. At each tile, the robot evaluates his cards, and performs the first action corresponding to a true If card. If none of the If cards is true, the robot moves forward by default.

Within and between levels, the robot talks to the player and opines his existence. He is not happy that all his actions are determined by a set of cards. He resents the player for controlling him, but at the same time he appreciates the player for causing him to do anything at all. As the game progresses, the robot seeks to achieve self-determination in a variety of ways; each tack affects a series of levels.

For instance, at one point the robot acquires a randomization chip, and for the set of levels that follow, some of the if-then slots are randomized. The robot is inevitably disappointed as he gradually realizes that everything in the physical world, even the human brain, is a deterministic system governed by rules.


Technologically and mechanically, this portion of the game could easily have existed in an equivalent form in decades past. In fact, many games with similar gameplay mechanics preceded Fate. But the characteristic that exposes Fate as a game of its era is the integrated narrative theme.

The developers of Fate carefully developed the theme alongside the gameplay; both the gameplay mechanics and the story revolve around autonomy, self-determination, and fate—themes which were chosen for their dramatic relevance to the gaming culture of the time. This sort of integrated thematic development is common practice in 2020.

Mechanic 2: Programming a Human


As the single-player game develops and the robot begins to question the concept of self-determination, the robot asks the player to conduct experiments on humans. If humans were programmed like I am, the robot wonders, would they feel any differently than they usually do? To perform these experiments, the gameplay extends to real people in the real world—to others playing Fate.

In this portion of the game, players write programs intended to guide other players from a defined real-world start point to a clandestine end point. Every player is a programmer, and every player is also capable of executing others' programs in the world.

As players go about their everyday lives, they encounter the start points programmed by other players, and may choose to take on programs. Wearable tech (network-enabled glasses and contact lenses), used commonly in everyday life, provides a real-world HUD for players to identify start points, displays the program when players choose to take it on, and displays the end point when found.

The programming process follows the mechanism established in the single-player portion of the game: the programmer draws from a large set of If and Then cards, in some cases writing his own cards, to program the path. For instance, “If you encounter a manhole cover, then enter the nearest subway station.” The craziest, most interesting, most surprising programs garner recognition amongst the Fate community and become hits; players can replay programs they like, though points are only rewarded the first time through.

The programmer's goal in this portion of the game is to accumulate points, representing data points in the robot's study, by guiding players correctly to the end point. Both the programmer and those being programmed are rewarded when they reach the correct end point.

If players get lost (defined as moving beyond x meters from the target area) or stuck in an infinite loop, the programmer loses points. If a player following a program fails to follow the program to a T, he loses points. All of this is enabled by the everyday mobile technology of 2020, which tracks player position and visually records player activity.


This portion of the game extends the tradition of “big games” and ARGs that began to develop around the turn of the century. The thorough integration of technology and life that is possible in 2020 allows for a set of digital rules in the physical world to be evaluated concisely (by the system rather than the players), enforced, and integrated directly with the digital game. This supplantation of carefully designed and balanced digital game mechanics into the social world is responsible for the explosive popularity of games like Fate.

In 2020, many of the most popular digital games involve play in public spaces. To those not involved in the game and therefore largely unaware of the HUD elements that define other players' activities, these players' actions can seem inexplicable.

However, to anyone who has lived to the year 2020, these inexplicable actions no longer seem weird. A new breed of nerd has emerged, and come to be called the herd: this term describes the serious public game player, who allows the majority of his public acts to be defined by the games he is playing rather than his own agency.

This social phenomenon is important to the thematic impact of Fate; its relevance to the game's themes of determinism and fate goes unsaid, but is crystal clear to the gamers of 2020.


Games like Fate will play a central role in the game space of the future. The task of their famed creators will be to hone game mechanics to a sharp point, which penetrates from game, to life, to meaningfulness. The goal is for integrated gameplay and narrative to provide perspectives on a central dramatic premise. Technology will enable this revolution, but creativity and passion will fuel it.

Appliance Gaming 2020

Submitted By: Daniel Cook

The massive success of WiiFit was a wakeup call, not for the game industry, but for Maytag and Whirlpool. With a dash of simple game design, a simple bathroom scale outsold the most popular bathroom scales in the history of mankind by an order of magnitude.

A cadre of lapsed game developers, reinvigorated by their new 40-hour a week jobs, saw the obvious business opportunity and leapt for it. The resulting product: cloud connected household appliances combined with simple games and an augmented reality feedback system. The resulting consumer boom is widely credited with ending the economic malaise of America's Lost Decade.


The basic technology was quite straight forward. Hook up some inexpensive sensors and a wireless connection to assorted dishwashers,vacuums, refrigerators and washing machines. Add a feedback device in the form of a vision aware monocle. Viola, you've turned your every day environment into an omnipresent game machine.

The monocle displays a high definition HUD over the players normal view of the world. A camera with depth sensing captures the 20 megapixel scene at 60 FPS. This is then converted into a 3D representation and game objects are inserted in.

The resulting image is then redisplayed on the monocle. Such augmented reality systems are now quite popular. Why watch a static George Clooney on a TV screen when you can be doing the dishes and map a youthful George Clooney's face and voice in real time onto that of your spouse?


Application games were initially simple mini-game collections when you cleaned and tidied for points. These were pooh poohed as a fad by gaming geriatrics who still thought it was hip to wire a heavily DRM'd box to a "television".

Luckily, they eventually died out along with all the other solitary gamers. Over time, market competition drove the development of rich story lines, massive multiplayer worlds, and 18+ content involving the surprisingly successful maid games genre.


Appliance gaming uses the popular "Free"-to-Live model. Appliances are provided at no charge, dropped off at your door by burly men who are themselves 80th level delivery paladins. Players pay for new play modes and status abilities.

For example, you can either play 20 hours or pay 300 yuan to unlock the warm rinse cycle on your washing machine. Since your household cleaning patterns are automatically Twittered (or Twoogled ever since Twitter engulfed Google) to your extended friends network, washing with highly taxed hot water has become an irresistible item drop in billion dollar franchises like World of Washcraft.


Once wives and girlfriends found that their men were addicted to vacuuming as long as it involved augmented reality death matches, signups went viral. Within two years, 82% of American household considered themselves to be a moderate to compulsive appliance gamers.

There are downsides. Household arguments often devolve into husbands pleading to do 'just one more load of laundry.' The industry's current biggest challenge is breaking away from the 'hardchore gamers' and wooing women back to housework. Nintendo calls this the Pink Ocean.

Our bright future

Ian Bogost, Senior Vice President of the Hoover Games and Consumables division was caught on government spyeye commenting. "Given the correct reward system, you'd be completely shocked at the things we can convince people do with a vacuum cleaner. Why coerce when you can persuade?"

His lunch companion, Sir Miyamoto laughed knowingly. Then they both hopped onto a co-op WiiBike and sped off on a tour of the Los Angeles Crater.


Submitted By: Jennifer Estaris

It begins with a touch.

Video games have long been accused of segregating gamers from real life interactions. Gamers emerge listless and bleary-eyed after hours in front of a screen, their lovers snap, untouched and feeling unloved, and after a few restless hours of sleep the cycle continues.

Here Birthmark falls in, with a hope to reconnect couples.

Birthmark stems from massage theories, experimental touchscreen gameplay, and Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body, a novel of loss and love. The body is a coded text; as Winterson writes: "Written on the body is a secret code only visible in certain lights: the accumulations of a lifetime gather there."

Like the novel, Birthmark is a journey of discovery. It is a journey to discover the accumulations of someone's lifetime. By 2020, technology will evolve to allow for a new game console accessory: the Body Suit. Today's analog would be the Wii Balance Board, if the Balance Board also had a touchscreen.

The person who wears the Body Suit thus becomes the body-host. The game is controlled by the touch of the player (the person who touches the body-host) and muscle reaction and external response of the playee (the person who is the body-host). The interactions range from a slight touch to a deep tissue massage. It's relaxing; it's beautiful; it's intimate.

Certain areas of the body suit's interface glow, others spin with fractal or other designs, and some areas simply sparkle -- these special effects are the game's "birthmarks". The player's touch and the playee's body's movements affect the playing field. Finding, interacting with, and correctly manipulating each "birthmark" uncover music and poetic text, similar to the body writings from Greenaway's film Pillow Book.

The player and playee work together to learn which is the "correct" manipulation via pattern recognition. But in this game, there is no universal correct versus incorrect; there is simply what feels right to the playee -- what body-shades, what touch-feeling does the playee respond to and enjoy most? The playee responds via the muscle or skin's reaction to a touch (Does she shiver? Does the muscle spasm?) or via external response -- e.g. manually inputting in the degree of pleasure.

When the playee responds positively to a player-touch, th

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