Video Game Trends for 2016: Blurred Lines

Of all the mainstream forms of pop art, perhaps only in interactive entertainment can a game be a success before it has even been released. For here is a medium that is still growing, both in the types of content available as well as the technology.

The year ahead will bring us titles that tackle cancer, abandonment and unlikely friendship bonds, among other topics. They will take us to new galaxies. In "No Man's Sky," players will become explorers of uncharted solar systems, able to land on a dizzying number of planets filled with colorful new life forms. Next holiday season, "Mass Effect: Andromeda" will be the latest in an epic space series in which personalities have mattered as much as guns.

More unconventionally, some will seek to further blur the lines between television and gaming, as games today increasingly emphasize narrative elements.

The new games will be judged not just on their technical prowess. No longer is some alchemy of bits and bytes a recipe to instant, magical game success. Today, a title like "That Dragon, Cancer," due Jan. 12, can score a win simply by showing the unassuming how games can breach previously off-limits topics of conversation. Cancer, in a child no less? Sure. Games can handle that.

There will, of course, be no shortage of impressive new hardware, from virtual reality headgear to the reveal of a new Nintendo console. Worth watching too is how independent developers began to tinker with the just-released Apple TV, an accessible game console in disguise. Like Nintendo's Wii before it, Apple TV offers the promise of appealing to those overwhelmed by the current complexity of console hardware.

Most of the focus, however, will be on 2016's shiny new toy: virtual reality.

Though we've recently seen entries and experiments in the virtual mobile space, 2016 is expected to...

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