Valve CEO Gabe Newell sat down with New Zealand’s 1 News last week and discussed, among other gaming topics, the potential for “brain interfaces” in the future of video games.
Valve recently released their own virtual reality headset, the Valve Index, has been openly researching “the next step” in the evolution of games.
“We’re working on open source projects so that everybody can have high-resolution read technologies built into headsets, in a bunch of different modalities,” said Newell. “Our ability to create experiences through peoples’ brains that are not mediated through their meat peripherals will actually be better than is possible… So you’re used to experiencing the world through eyes, but eyes were created by this low-cost bidder who didn’t care about failure rates and RMAs, and if it got broken there was no way of fixing it, effectively.”
Newell is talking about BCIs, or brain-computer interfaces. “It’s like The Matrix,” says Newell. Unlike The Matrix though, BCIs passively read data about a player’s brain to then alter what is shown on a VR visor. An open-source device that uses BCI is the very secretive Galea by OpenBCI, which already boasts connectivity with Valve’s Index.
Debates on the ethics of biometric data collection, as well as health risks are plentiful in the face of the invasive new tech. “People are going to have to have a lot of confidence that these are secure systems that don’t have long term health risks,” warned Newell.
Newell’s musings come notably close to the release of Cyberpunk 2077 by CDProjekt Red, which details a similar future to the one Newell imagines. In the game, traditional video games are long extinct in preference of “brain dance” programs that behave uncannily similar to the BCIs Newell describes. In the game’s Night City, brain dance programs have effectively replaced all modes of entertainment, and in its wake left users plugged-in and alone, but flooded with artificial dopamine meant to simulate the purest happiness.