Gaming Design Know-Hows Chapter 5: Gaming Design, the Past and the Future


Let us start this chapter with the critically acclaimed Netflix hit “Stranger Things”. The science fiction, set in the early 80’s, brought back some nostalgic feelings for your childhood/teenage memories (assuming you are our age) or, if you are Millennials, it is a chance to travel to the past and see what gaming was like at the time.

The recreated scenes - the Palace Arcade - where kids in the series liked to hang out, exhibited many retro arcade game machines. Netflix, together with the show’s directors, even released an Atari-style video game. It is a tribute to an era, as well as the collective memory shared by gamers.

Courtesy of Netflix/BonusXP

As we mentioned in the previous chapters, designers don’t have to be gamers to be able to create good gaming products; but their past experiences do contribute to who they are today.

Thus CRE8, as a design studio that has been working on gaming hardware for 2 decades, would like to talk a little bit about the classic gaming devices which formed the early gaming experiences for many of our designers, and to look into the future and see where the trends will take us.

The Early Days
Some of the Most Representative Gaming Devices

Gaming Console
Atari 2600

Released in 1977 and sold over 30 million units, this was probably the most iconic and well-received gaming console during the 80’s. Atari 2600, typically bundled with two joystick controllers, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers, and a game cartridge, dominated the home video game industry for years and contributed to the success of many popular games such as Combat and Pac-Man.

By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Gaming PC
Commodore VIC-20

Released in 1980, the VIC-20 was one of the first home computers with the ability to display colors. Built for the masses, it was an inexpensive all-in-one PC combined with keyboard. Its concept really defined the 80’s home computer - compact and affordable, which made it the first microcomputer to sell more than one million units in the world. Paired with cassette tapes and cartridges, it was often used as an entry gadget for video gaming amongst families and friends.

By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Gaming Machine
Video Arcade

One of the earliest arcade games – Pong - was introduced by Atari in 1972. Since its launch, this type of coin-operated entertainment machine typically installed in public amusement arcades started to gain popularity. The golden age for arcade games was commonly known to be from late 70’s when “Space Invaders” was released till mid 80’s and it saw a rapid spread of video arcades across North America, Europe, and Asia. The number of video game arcades in North America reached a peak of 10,000 across the region.

By Rob Boudon [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Whether a PC, a console, or a gaming arcade machine, many of the games and devices in the 80’s left long legacies in today’s gaming scenes. With the rapid growth of technology and the gaming market, there are more and more varieties developed to suit different gamers’ preferences.

Please refer to our Gaming Design Know-Hows Chapter 1: Gamers, who are they?

However, as designers, where do we see the future is going?

Based on our knowledge and observation, there are 4 unstoppable trends:

From VR, AR, to MR, it is still a learning curve for developers and designers. Slightly different from what people expected years back, now the direction changes, and the challenges are: a. it is too expensive to be widely played in every home and that is why “VR arcade” will be the new thing; b. as a rather new territory, the VR video content development is still very far behind and needs to keep up with the hardware.

2) Embedded Sensors
Now gaming has been more and more connected with input devices. As the next level of VR development, companies are further studying how to use sensors and trackers to interact with the games or other players. The eye tracking glasses could be a start. In the future, most probably you will have sensors embedded under your skin for an even more immersive experience.

3) The Emergence of eSports
With the growing popularity and public engagement, video gaming is not just regarded as a leisure activity anymore; many have given it a new name – eSports. The training, the rules, and the ethics all become serious. Live streaming and TV broadcasting of the tournaments also help bring in more audience, and of course, more business opportunities. Although the final decision is yet to be made, eSports could be very likely to be added to the Olympic program as an official medal sport in 2024 in Paris.

4) Rising Number of the Silver Gamers
As the world population is aging, we see an increasing number of silver gamers. To adapt to this trend, both software and hardware will be very likely to be redesigned. For the younger generation, gaming is more for entertainment, but for elderly gamers, it could be body exercise and cognitive training beneficial for health, or even for social purposes.

Coming to an end of the 5 chapters’ gaming design series, we have talked about the gamers (knowing your users); how to design a good gaming product (proper design process); innovation through design (design thinking); creating a product line (strategic design language); the past and the future of gaming (trend forecast). We hope that you enjoyed the series and, to designers, we suggest to use the same steps in all your future design endeavors.

It will be our pleasure to receive your feedback as a comment below. Also, please stay tuned for more insights from CRE8 DESIGN in the future.