Our cover story this week is about games people play. More accurately, it's about the people who make games people play. In "Play Makers," contributor Aaron Conklin recounts the promise of the games industry in Madison and what it has achieved in the decade since everyone saw Madison as a future games powerhouse.
Well, it hasn't quite worked out that way, for Madison or for the games industry. The digital entrepreneurs have seen the trends in gaming shift. For one thing, game playing has evolved from a strictly solitary endeavor to include multiple-player, online experiences and other further explorations in the digital realm.
Instead of creating industry behemoths to become the Standard Oils or General Motors of the digital age, the foment in gaming has produced many smaller, single-purpose concerns that have prospered and spawned others like them. The process has been robust.
Along the way, experience has taught that, despite being able to replicate the wildest conceptions of the imagination, the virtual universe is nowhere near as problematic as the real world. But while the gaming industry has not progressed in the ways envisioned, it has grown, and there is still a place in its development for Madison-based endeavors.
Not only that - the field has gained purchase in the academic world. A decade ago, there was the inkling of a future where game technology would be harnessed for more substantial purposes. These days that promise continues to be pursued in a "serious" way. "Serious games" are a focus of the UW School of Education, which is involved in the upcoming seventh annual edition of the Games+Learning+Society Conference in mid-June.
In the meantime, Madison is developing a nice little "clean" industry to go along with its burgeoning medical technology enterprises. The city's brainpower is paying off again, as it has in decades past, and keeping us entertained along the way. Is this the brave new world?