Boston Computer Museum

On Saturday, November 7, 1987, the Boston Computer Museum hosted a pair of panel discussions on computer games. The morning panel featured some of the early pioneers of computer games, such as the inventor of SpaceWar and David Ahl. The afternoon panel included Dan Bunten, David Lebling, Tom Snyder, and myself. The afternoon topic of discussion was the future of computer games.

The discussion was significant for its points of agreement as well as disagreement. Most surprising to me was the consensus the panel quickly reached over the direction of future development in computer games. Absent was the gushing over glorious graphics and fabulous animation so often heard from less experienced commentators. This panel was unanimous in its emphasis on characters and character development in the future of computer games.

The main disagreement arose over the strategies most likely to produce such developments in the near future. Each panelist saw a different path as the one most likely to realize the potential of games. I argued for artificial personality; Dan Bunten liked multi-player games; David Lebling saw the future in natural language processing; and Tom Snyder seemed to be arguing for less slavish emphasis on pure interactivity.

Another disagreement arose over the nature of stories in computer games. Here there was considerable disagreement, but in my opinion the problem was more one of confusion on everybody’s part rather than incompatibilities between well-formed opinions. One group, arguing for games as story-presenters, asked, "Would Hamlet be Hamlet if it ended differently?" The other group, argued for games as one level of indirection removed from stories, but could not clearly state what this meant.