From Pong (1972) to Minecraft (2011), the video game industry as we know it is now reaching over forty years of cultural significance. Although quite a short amount of time in the grand scheme of things, in the 21st century, gaming has become one of the most popular forms of entertainment – making their way into our homes through the ‘80s, infiltrating them in the ‘90s, and virtually becoming a household necessity by the turn of the century. In fact, according to the latest research from IGEA (Interactive Games and Entertainment Association), 98% of homes with children have some kind of computer game, while 68% of the population plays video games.
That’s where I come in. I’ve gamed my entire life, and I, like many others, have been able to witness a radical change in the entire industry across this time. Here, I would like to introduce some of these concepts and explore them in the coming weeks.
“Video games are a unique media platform, although often equally as complex, gripping and emotionally captivating as others. They involve careful thinking, strategy and skill. Modern games possess the visual enticement of films while offering something more.”
These features are arguably what make games so unique. Although, games differ from other media platforms in many other ways. They heavily implement music – but not in a conventional way. I want to examine how musical composition differs when it is done for video games; reflecting location, atmosphere and on-screen visuals and following a unique structure.
As well as music, I will examine the rise of mobile and ‘freemium’ games featuring micro-transactions. Think Candy Crush Saga, that overly addictive puzzle game you’ve all played on your phone that locks you out after a certain amount of time and urges you to pay a small fee to continue playing. Can’t beat a level? That’s fine. Pay for more turns. Pay to win. While an ingeniously profitable endeavour, I want to explore the ethical issues with targeting users in this way, effectively capitalising on addiction.
“eSports and competitive video games are now widely broadcast live online, with enormous prize pools, such as just under $18.5m US in 2015, at The International world championships for popular online multiplayer game, Dota 2.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the surge in popularity of online gaming and the eSports phenomenon has popularised the concept of the professional, competitive gamer. eSports and competitive video games are now widely broadcast live online, with enormous prize pools, such as just under $18.5m US in 2015, at The International world championships for popular online multiplayer game, Dota 2. The use of the internet in relation to games has changed the industry dramatically. It has allowed for post-release updates, online multiplayer, as well as downloadable content or DLC, all of which can improve or detract from the gaming experience.
In this series, these concepts of gaming and gaming culture will be explored. I will examine gaming from its original inception to its modern form and the radical differences and shifts in gaming culture in the last forty years.