Today video games abound, but closeness does not. Most kids with game consoles take to their rooms and can become immersed in a fantasy world of stealing cars and slaying dragons for hours. There's no real need to hang out with friends or family when so much fun can be had entirely alone. Even, adults
sometimes become immersed in the world of the internet or PC games. The point is video games are incredibly fun -- they're getting better and better all the time -- but they're not very condusive to building relationships.
Now, I know it may look like I'm going to down video games and recommend people stay away from them altogether, but I'm not. In fact, I love games. It's just that I love a different class of games: strategy board games. See www.funagain.com or www.gamefest.com for some examples. The great thing about these games is that they're multi-player games. Most of them require at least 4 people, but the general range varies between 3 and 6. These games are great fun and they pull people together around the table.
I've fancied the idea of pulling people together around a table to play video games using a custom system that I'm sure I'm not the first to think of. You've seen the flat table video games in bars before... the ones where you can sit your Budweiser directly on top of Ms. Pacman as she scurries around eating pellets. Take that idea a little further: create a flat-screen console much like today's tablet PCs, but make it much larger and square. This hypothetical console rests flat on the family dinner table and like any game console has a variety on input devices ranging from joysticks to key pads.
Unlike the upright console of most video game systems, people can gather around it and see eachother face to face. This way the people we play are as much in our field of vision as the game itself. It's social the same way that playing poker can be. In fact, this console would allow traditional games like poker, Monopoly, Risk, and Trivial Pursuit. It would accomodate party games like Outburst, Taboo and Scattegories. It would even play the more advanced video games that we see today.
I think the primary difference in the game offerings would be that they're designed to be played over a limited duration, say 1 or 2 hours. This is vastly different than playing Civilization III for 20+ hours; that's not saying that such games couldn't be designed for such a console, but they're not the mainstay.
Are you catching my drift? Wouldn't this be awesome!?
Today, how often if ever do you have people over socially to play video games? It's just not feasible unless you have the expensive equipment to set up a LAN party. Plus, what adult is going to sit down with his adult friends in front of a console system and play Halo or Super Mario Cart? The video games that are designed today are for kids (or men like myself who refuse to grow up). They're not designed with socializing in mind.
I had a great trivia game on my PC called "You Don't Know Jack". It really was a fun game and worthy of many replays, but I only ever had people play it a few times. It was annoying to have 2 and 3 other people huddled uncomfortably around me holding their finger on the whammy key assigned to them on my keyboard. It was fun, but it just didn't work. Enter the Game Table Console. People sit comfortably around a dinner table the way they often do when company is over. Each person has his own input device and the interface is designed to be viewed by the several people sitting around it.
Obviously, the biggest inhibitor would be cost (such a large flat screen console would undoubtedly be pricy), but with technology constantly coming down in price, this could soon be feasible. Think of the cash cow this could be for the first company to introduce it.
It provides a whole new answer to the oft asked question, "So what do you guys want to do tonight?"