Many of you know the experience of bringing a girlfriend to an arcade. She sort-of stands there awkwardly and smiles nervously while you play. And having her watch you play God of War on your home console has her covering her eyes as you mutilate every human being that comes on to the screen. Nolan Bushnell, the creator of Pong, Atari, and Chuck E. Cheese, is hoping to the change the gaming experience for couples with a new chain of restaraunts called Media Bistro. He described details of his vision at the Ziff Davis Game Summit.
Bushnell argues that the video game industry has lost business because of the violent photorealistic genre that dominates games. Before a crash in 1982, the game industry had approximately 44 million players. Currently, hardcore gamers average around 18 million. The gaming industry makes more money these days because of the cost of everything, but attracts a smaller market.
"Do we really want photorealism?" asked Bushnell. "It diminishes the potential for product differentiation. I’d hate to be the marketing department saying that my photorealism is better than your photorealism...Blood and gore loses its cartoon defense. If you think we’ve got problems now, you’ll see we have additional problems once the cartoon defense goes away."
"We will find that unless the industry polices itself more tightly–and I don’t know why sex is a bigger hot button than violence–you will find that the government will climb in. It’s coming. I don’t see any way of derailing it right now," he added.
"We had a rule agains violence against human beings," Bushnell commented on Atari. "It was good business to stay away from controversy. In the early eighties, as sales slowed down, companies turned to violence."
Bushnell’s envisions a restaurant that strays from the mainstream violent, complicated, photorealisitic games. He plans to target the restaurant toward 21-45 year-old females. And when these females begin to flock to the restaurant, he hopes that males will follow.
Tables will have two-sided touch screens with a non-intimidating user interface. An example of a game Bushnell envisions for the restaurant was a wine-tasting game. A couple can order a mystery wine. They vote on the characteristics of the wine and talk about their answers. The couple would be able to see how others in the restaurant voted, then how wine critics voted, and finall the name and age of the wine.
The first Media Bistro will open in Los Angeles, CA on November 1.