I am a huge fan of gaming, though I get very little time to play these days (damn you full time employment). And what better type of game than the RPG? That’s role-playing game for you non-gamers. The RPG gives us the freedom to make our own decisions and carve our own paths within a game.
The ‘crime investigation’ type of game is a massively popular one. Take for example the success of the likes of LA Noire, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments, Fahrenheit, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the list goes on. And I’m not just talking about your usual gaming consoles: crime investigation is big in mobile apps too. Right now on my phone I have got downloaded Murder Manor and Asylum, both by Haiku Games; these are massively popular murder mysteries in which you have to solve puzzles and figure out clues in order to unlock the next level.
But what next?
Off the back of the astounding success of Pokémon: Go, it’s surely only a matter of time before other developers catch up and Pokémon trainers are joined out in the real world by mobile wielding detectives, soldiers, vampires and spies all gaming in the real world.
What about going one step further than that?
While it feels (to me anyway) that virtual reality gaming is still in its infancy – PlayStation VR, HTC Vive VR and Oculus Rift and only hit our shelves Autumn 2016 – development is already well established for augmenting gaming into the real world. But what does augmented reality mean, and what does the future of crime investigation gaming look like?
Augmented reality or mixed reality does exactly what it says on the tin: through the headset you play the game by viewing your own room but with aspects of the game materialised in front of you.
How crazy is this? Right now you could be solving crimes in your own living room, hearing a voice call from behind only to spin round and be confronted by the terrifying villain-of-the-piece. I don’t know whether this is exciting or terrifying but one thing is for sure: it’s here. Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset is already on sale for $3,000/£2,719 (what!!) and their game Fragments shown in the video above is completely free. If you already have the headset you can download the game here.
I don’t know about you but I am struggling to keep up with the leaps and bounds developers are taking in their ever-increasing ambition to amaze gaming fans. But take heed – those of you who have seen Black Mirror’s trippy S3E2 ‘Playtest’ will know only too well the potential dangers we may face with AR: how long until our houses are morphed into haunted mansions? No. Thankyou.
So what does this mean for the future of crime fiction?
In a survey of over 2,000 British crime fiction readers, Kobo discovered that, when asked which themes they would like to see covered in crime novels, 34% of readers wanted to see artificial intelligence covered in their stories. The next strongest reply of 25% wanted virtual reality themes.
This presents a challenge for crime fiction writers to navigate the fast-changing waters of AI, VR and AR and provide us with a newly packaged crime story in the modern world. The challenge is for writers to understand increasingly complex technologies, and figure out how a criminal might capitalise on these technologies to commit acts of violence. And all while ensuring they have explained enough about these technologies so the reader can keep up. Phew, sounds exhausting.
If you are reading this as a writer and wondering where to start, fear not! How about getting yourself on the list of a Virtual Reality Conference:
IEEE VR 18th-22nd March 2017 – LA, USA
Key talks: Instantaneous Beaming to Distance Places – A Possible and Desirable Future?
Silicon Valley VR Expo 29th-31st March 2017 – San Jose, USA
Key talks: Artificial Intelligence and New Reality.
VR World Congress 11th-13th April 2017 – Bristol, UK
Key talks: The Future of Wearable Displays and Inputs, Virtually Be Someone Else and Change Yourself, and The Ethics of Virtual Reality: Risks and Recommendations.
VRWorld 16th-17th May 2017 – London, UK
Key talks: Virtual Reality as the Next Mass Medium?, Engaging Audiences that are Ever-Harder to Please, and Entertainment and Media Five Years from Now.
VRTO 24th-26th June 2017 – Toronto, Canada
Key talks: TBC, but last year included How to Choose and Create Great 360 Stories, and The Upward Spiral of Virtual Reality: The Impact of VR on Consciousness & Society.
Over to you
What are your thoughts on including AI, VR and AR in your crime stories? Do you want to read about these topics?