Clint Hocking at Game Design Expo on the Next Generation of Player

Clint Hocking, the Creative Director at Ubisoft, was the keynote speaker at the 2009 Game Design Expo, put on by Vancouver Film School and held at the Vancity Theatre. In his talk on the “next generation of player,” he explained how demographic shifts will determine what kind of games we’ll be playing in the near future.

The world is a very different place for Generation Y than it was for the previous generation, when Hocking and his fellow game designers were creating games in a DIY, build it from the ground up fashion. Now those interested in game development can attend schools and benefit from the learning of those who came before.

But what about the future of games? Or rather, what about the people playing those games? Hocking delineated how the generations have interacted (including a very entertaining and very quick rush through the history of the 20th century) and how all these myriad factors have brought us to Generation Y, the current gaming populace.

Gen Y has already far surpassed Generation X in terms of populace, and is about to surpass the boomers. They’ve also become the most populous generation, period, and they’ll have entered the workforce. The upshot of all this demography is that around 2015 there will be a massive generational shift where Y will become the dominant force in the workplace, with the boomers retiring and the Xers sidelined.

Hocking said technology won’t determine the big change in the game industry, but the population shift will have a profound effect. Game developers will overwhelmingly be from Generation Y. And Hocking also pointed out that most of the highest rated games on are in fact designed by Generation X. This is the generation that made some for the best games because they were the ones playing them, he said. But now the gaming industry is growing exponentially, and Gen Y is flooding into the industry. And the game industry will almost certainly be dominated by this generation, both in terms of development and in terms of audience.

Generation X is fundamentally a “single player” audience, but Gen Y is much more social, enjoys co-op gaming and doesn’t have the aversion to rewards that Gen X holds as a fundamental principle.

Given that, Hocking explained how game principles will be able to reach this. First, immersion will be a subjective experience, with less emphasis on “hardcore gamer saves the world” and more on co-operation, and a wider base of rewards given out to the players as they participate in a game. Making hardcore games will result in diminishing returns over time, as the Gen X audience shrinks. Generation Y already controls the 18-24 demographic, and that’s the audience the game industry targets most intensely.  But making games that allow for socializing while within the play space will become an ever growing trend, he said.