This is a heavily revised version of an article first published in PC Gamer UK, last year. It’s based on a presentation given by Ray Kurzweil at GDC 2008, and subsequent conversations I had with the author Charles Stross and the game designer Eskil Steenberg.
This article began back in 2008, when I was sat in the audience for GDC’s keynote speech by futurist Ray Kurweil. “Games are the harbinger of everything,” Kurzweil was saying, as he delivered his take on the future of everything (with slight emphasis on games) to the assembled design-masses. The controversial technologist, who regularly talks about his hopes for technological immortality and transhuman ascension via artificial intelligence, was arguing that games were where the future manifested itself. “Ultimately,” he said, “they’re going to be competitive with real reality.” These were claims I’d heard a bunch of times before. Often, in the pub, during conversations with Kieron, as he gesticulated dangerously behind a glass of wine. Other times from developers, writers, and gamers. I realised, watching Kurzweil, that it was something I was going to have to write more about: just what kind of future do games promise?