As we cautiously tiptoe into a new year -- hoping in this instance that it's more of a reboot than a direct sequel -- it might seem a little na´vely optimistic to start by thinking about how things will pan out once the world has gone "back to normal," or at least receded to whatever form the "new normal" is going to take. With many countries experiencing soaring case counts and going back into lockdowns or states of emergency, while new strains of the virus wreak havoc and the promising vaccination programs struggle through early bureaucratic teething troubles, even hinting at a timeline for a return to normality is a fraught thing, let alone pondering what that normality might bring.

Within the relatively sheltered confines of the games industry, though, there are at least a few things we can glean, or at least discuss, about how the future beyond the pandemic is shaping up. Much of the industry's focus when it comes to talking about the "new normal" has been on its impact on work practices, and I've argued before that the balancing act between the genuine value of face-to-face working environments and the reasonable desire of many employees to enjoy the benefits of remote work is going to be far, far trickier than a lot of companies seem to be assuming.

As that discussion has rolled on, though, I wonder if a less flashy but arguably more impactful influence of the pandemic is being overlooked to some degree -- namely the impact our experiences in 2020 (and, unfortunately, in what seems likely to be much of 2021) will have on game design itself.

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