Meet Steven Keay, gamification expert and AR&VR developer at Sigma Technology Systems. Today we asked Steven about trends and potential within the gaming industry.
Jump to the Section
Could you tell us about yourself, who you are, and what you do?
My name is Steven Keay, I’m 25 years old, and I am a developer at Sigma Technology Systems. Right now, I am working for one of our telecom customers, where I’m part of a team developing VR experiences.
What inspired you to become a game developer?
It’s hard to say exactly what or when it happened since it’s been such a natural personal development and part of my life. I’ve been playing games my whole life, and as a kid, I’d enjoy finding my own ways to play games. Eventually, I just started making my own board games using what I could find at home. Later in life, I started playing League of Legends and eventually competed more seriously. I think it was then that I began to appreciate the work behind creating this experience that let me as a player express my skill and creativity within the confines of a game. There are practically countless possible interactions between all the different actors in the game, and it all felt balanced and fun – that just blew my mind. Also, as an art form, game development suits me well because I am also interested in music and music production. So, for me, it’s natural to think about the mood and setting of the experiences I’m trying to create, and music can be a significant part of creating that atmosphere in games too.
Could you tell us about your experience in Esports?
I used to compete semi-professionally in League of Legends for a few years. I played for some lesser-known organizations or independently with friends and teammates that I got to know by competing with or against. It happened by playing the game a lot and becoming good enough that you start getting recognized. At that point, people get in contact with you and want to form teams, and that’s how I got into it. Over the years, I have won some minor international and domestic tournaments, and I played in the Swedish championship. I also represented Sweden in the 2016 IeSF world championship. My lifestyle at that point was very different from now. At most, I used to play 12-14 hours a day, and at that point, it became a kind of lifestyle where it’s just on your mind constantly. So, I don’t miss that kind of life anymore, but it’s an irreplaceable feeling to be able to play and compete against some of the best players in the world.
What trends do you think we will see in future game development?
A safe bet is that we will continue to see the mobile gaming sector grow. Smartphone hardware keeps improving, and people are spending more and more time on their phones. MMORPG games have dominated in the past, but now we have seen a huge decline over recent years. It could be because of the new generation of gamers who don’t have patience for that type of long-term commitment to a game. But I think immersive technologies such as VR could lead to the resurgence of this type of gamer in the future. The instant immersion that VR offers could mean that gamers buy into the world you’re selling a lot quicker. It also may attract the type that wants to fully immerse themselves into a world and a character long term.
What potential does AR & VR have for future development?
AR & VR has enormous potential. AR already has a steady foothold in the mobile game market, where it’s often combined with a location-based game idea to elevate the experience, such as with Pokémon Go or Ingress. I see it continuing in a similar direction, but I don’t think it’s the technology that will attract users, but rather the clever use. There are apparent pros with the technology, such as instant immersion into another world, virtual presence with other players, and users’ ability to use their whole body to interact with the world. In a way, it reminds me of how some roleplaying games can make us feel when we are fully immersed – that our bodies are just extensions of ourselves. But that type of time-consuming immersion doesn’t seem to be what’s attracting players right now. Maybe in the future, VR hardware will make that kind of immersion feel more rewarding and worthwhile. So when we reach that point, there will be an even more significant shift toward VR development.
What’s your view on gamification?
I think it’s an effective way of making systems or just traditional ways of learning a lot more interactive and engaging. Poorly implemented gamification can be painful, though, when it doesn’t make learning easier and more fun. I believe you need to use it in a way that feels meaningful to the user, similar to how you develop a new feature for a game. I think people are too used to well-developed apps and games to see past poor implementation, so you need to put the same type of care into these systems.
Do you have any experience with gamification?
I studied game development in high school, and as part of that, we had a course where we worked with a small studio to create learning games for kids. So, we spent a lot of time brainstorming and coming up with ways to disguise learning “boring” subjects such as grammar and math as games. In my current assignment, we develop VR experiences, and part of that includes guided learning. At the beginning of the project, there were a lot of discussions about how we could keep track of how well users were learning and performing so that we could know how effective our experiences were. Finally, because of my background in game development, I started to think of how we could use techniques that encourage users to learn and keep improving while making it a more fun experience.
Gamification expert and AR&VR developer at Sigma Technology.