Gabe Newell thinks brain-computer interfaces could be the future of gaming

Eric Abent - Jan 25, 2021, 9:16am CST
Gabe Newell thinks brain-computer interfaces could be the future of gaming

Game developers are always looking for ways to make games more immersive, and one area Valve owner and co-founder Gabe Newell is pushing them to consider is brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). Valve has apparently been researching BCIs for a number of years now, and though we aren’t likely to see the company release a commercial BCI of its own at any point in the near future, Newell seems convinced that these wearables could be the future of gaming.

In an interview with New Zealand’s 1 News, Newell says that Valve has been working with OpenBCI on an open-source BCI software project. These interfaces could potentially be used improve immersion by adapting gameplay to a user’s emotions at any given time – for instance upping the difficulty if the BCI detects that players are feeling bored – but Newell also talked about a future where BCIs can be used to write signals to players’ brains.

“The real world will seem flat, colourless, blurry compared to the experiences you’ll be able to create in people’s brains,” Newell said in the interview, adding, “Where it gets weird is when who you are becomes editable through a BCI.” In fact, Newell thinks that humans will be able to edit their sleep patterns through an app as one of the early applications of BCIs.

Does that mean Valve is working on a consumer BCI itself? Not for now, at least, with Newell saying that research is moving along so quickly that releasing a product would be premature. “The rate at which we’re learning stuff is so fast that you don’t want to prematurely say, ‘OK, let’s just lock everything down and build a product and go through all the approval processes, when six months from now, we’ll have something that would have enabled a bunch of other features,” Newell said.

While Valve’s work with BCIs does sound like it’s progressing quickly and in a promising way, Newell also covered some of the downsides in his interview with 1 News, noting that developers will need to go to great lengths to ensure that their BCIs are secure, lest they fall victim to viruses or bad actors. He also mentioned the possibility of BCIs being used to make people feel pain, which could even be part of a game.

In the end, Newell says that people are going to have to trust BCIs enough to use them, which is an entirely different can of worms. If you have time, be sure to read through 1 News’ entire, lengthy interview with Newell on the topic of BCIs, because it sounds like it’s a field that could be very promising for the world of gaming and beyond.


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