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A few weeks ago, I wrote about the economic impact of video games and why it’s in the country’s best interest to have a bright gaming future. While there are several conversations over the past few years that have corroborated my position, nothing has hit home harder than a discussion I recently had with a major university that prides itself on its technology focus.
One of the top three Chinese game ISVs (independent software vendors) proposed opening a branch of this university in their country. While this is probably a good idea on the surface, I do wonder what the long-term cause and effect is. Eight of the top 10 companies shipping PC games in the world have already shifted to China or South Korea.
The full economic impact of this has barely begun to be felt. Would it really be a good thing to see what little expertise we have left migrate abroad? Can we afford to offshore and outsource math and science skills (algorithms, graphics APIs, physics, AI)?
I’d contend that there are more cons than pros in this scenario. Fact is, as key technology drivers and growth areas continue to globalize, we can’t afford to lose an edge more than we already have. If we could magically fix all this tomorrow, it’d likely be another decade before we started to see the fruits of those labors even begin to materialize.
What about console games? I’m sure people are tired of hearing me bagging on consoles. However, consider the following: Would I have learned how to build a PC from the ground up, tweak it, fix it and so on, had it been illegal to crack the box and modify it? The answer is no. I wouldn’t have. Can you build a legal console system from the ground up? No, you cannot.
I never thought I’d hear myself saying this, but now I look back on all the countless hours of building and upgrading PCs -- the posting issues, the blue screens, the crashes, the overclocking and so on -- as an investment in my future. Being able to experience all of that has been invaluable to me in my career, building my knowledge base and understanding more about not only the hardware, but also where the bottlenecks are.
There’s also the fact that consoles have an increasingly long lifespan, whereas PCs iterate and innovate every year! That’s just the hardware story. On the software side, I thank my lucky stars that there were PC games out there when I was starting my career that I could modify, skin, get level mods for, and so forth. Unfortunately, we don’t see as much of that anymore. You just cannot get that level of tinkering and flexibility with consoles and console games -- and until we do, they’ll always be on my targeting reticle.
So what do you think? I hope you understand, for the sake of time, that I’m glossing over a ton of other stories and details. However, I do want to leave you with some final questions: Are we (i.e., America) placing enough emphasis in our school systems on math and science? Where would our economy be without technology being a key growth market, export and job creator? Can our retirement strategies, which are predicated on some form of continued growth, weather the erosion of one of the biggest technology drivers we have in PC gaming?
When I do the math, which I admit I’m bad at, I really believe we need to be pushing the boundaries further and faster in the PC gaming ecosystem. Any closed, proprietary platforms definitely work against our favor. Stalling out or starving the PC gaming ecosystem deprives us of an innovation platform and is a luxury I believe we can’t afford to lose.
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