While many might still believe that games are just for the kids, the ever-evolving web is now increasingly capable of running advanced games-class technologies within the browser, and they can be deployed for much more than Angry Bird clones.
Is Flashy Chrome the Way To Go?
Google's Chrome browser has just hit version 18 (mine is updating in the background right now). New features include hardware acceleration for the HTML5 Canvas element and support for older PC graphics chips and Windows XP via some SwiftShader code.
Add to that, yesterday's announcement of Flash 11.2 and AIR 3.2 (we won't go in to the rather touchy subject of the 9% "speed tax" levied by Adobe if your app/game generates over US$ 50,000) and you have development tools that further push games and games technologies into the browser. The update also fixed a couple of security holes.
Adobe's updates include support for detection of right- and middle-mouse click events, mouse-lock and co-ordinate awareness. More power arrives in the form of multi-threaded video decoding, and the hardware acceleration for 60fps 2D and 3D graphics. The cross-platform AIR 3.2 update comes with Stage3D for mobile, which powers some newer iPad and other games.
Not Playing the Game
While you might not want or need fully fledged games experiences on your site, it is hard to ignore the trend in gamification and the use of hardware acceleration to push attractive visual features within the browser. This will help push those endless social games in Facebook and the like beyond their cartoonish current levels, but could also work on shop and business sites.
For example, what better way to attract visitors to, say, your golfing site than with a small diversionary 3D driving- or putting-based game flanked by a set of leaderboards -- something you can take 10 seconds to play and compare your score with friends/colleagues/rivals, before going about the main reason visitors normally come to the site for?
Within enterprises, gamification can be pushed to its logical conclusion. The best-performing salespeople can be given extra credit for web-based strategy action or combat games. Many salesmen would like to maim or beat each other, so why not let them do it in the confines of a medieval, auto racing or gun battle game during a lunch break?
If you don't believe that games can have real-world applications, the FBI and other agencies have just licensed the Unreal Game Engine for superior simulations, visualization and other uses. With that level of technology rapidly moving to the browser, mere text and pictures won't cut it for the next generation of web users. The increasing power of HTML5 will see web effects look increasingly like they're out of games or movies anyway.