Connectivity, Mobile & Serious Games

So this morning while I was sipping my first cup of coffee I sat back and watched a film about Spectrum Crunch. I thought that sounds like an interesting problem for the future but not something that’s going to directly affect me. But then the narrator said something that made me sit up and take note; AT&T claim we are going to run out of spectrum by 2014… That’s only a year and a half away. I’m not a mobile developer, it’s not my area of expertise, but this claim got my brain buzzing and as an avid mobile user I needed to know more and take a little bit of time to explore the topic and subsequent consequences. This is obviously a huge issue which I can’t even begin to give justice too, but I wanted to share my initial musings and I’m sure there will be more to follow on the matter over the coming weeks.

OK, so it’s not an Armageddon, end of the world scenario, it doesn’t mean the internet will just turn off, of course we still have wires, but it means the crunch on our wireless connections has begun, long before I, and I suspect the majority of the public expected it.

The spectrum referred to in the film is the amount of usable radiation waves that we leverage to transmit data via the air, so 3G, wifi, things like that. It’s something that most us don’t consider when we pull out our smart phones to check our emails, launch Facebook, or browse videos on YouTube; a luxury I know I take for granted. I for one have noticed the increasingly lack of unrestricted data contracts and increasing prices of data costs, but so far it’s been a fairly subdued and quiet issue.

In parallel to the increasing costs and limitations is increasing demand for cloud services to be accessed any where any time. The demand for serious games on mobile is increasing just as quickly; it seems to be the must have accessory for any L&D department despite technical limitations or practical usage issues and cost concerns. Just recently cloud gaming has become a popular topic of conversation where you won’t need a powerful gaming rig at home, all the processing and data crunching will be handled in the ‘cloud’ by a bank of super computers with the results streamed to your home PC/Smart phone/Tablet, but as we see from modern connected gaming, right now we need pretty significant bandwidth levels to play anything complex with any degree of quality. Mobile networks are some way off achieving this level of data transfer.

Obviously this is less of an issue at home, or in the office, but more so if we are talking about on the go. Connectivity in smart phone gaming is pretty new but it is gaining in momentum with some real time multiplayer games now entering the market but in the main mobile games approach connectivity differently, often with asynchronous communication (not real time) and therefore we experience different types of game play on the go

If the spectrum crunch is to be believed it seems that our data usage and consumption is currently unsustainable. I’m sure there are clever people out there working on the issue, including, I read, some funky work with lasers (almost always the answer!). I suppose I am left with questioning if we can start using data more intelligently. Can we educate the market to use different approaches for different platforms, is there a need for it, or will this all be resolved before 2014. But for now (while we have to wait for lasers to solve our problems) as the serious games market matures further, and we see a demand for training and learning on the go, with serious games on our tablets and smart phones we have to become more aware of how we use data, how we design our games and truly understand the implications and use our creativity to work around the issues and deliver the best learning solutions we can. We should take a good look at how the games sector has approached mobile, consider connectivity and just in time and stop treating it the same as a high end PC/console game. Despite the mobile revolution, there’s a reason why PC’s and games consoles are still incredibly popular; they’re powerful and plugged into a LAN.

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