By Camille Farah

 

ONE GAMER MAY CONCEAL ANOTHER

Are you picturing the common gamer as a reclusive 16-year-old boy with glasses and extra pounds, playing on his console? Game Over! In 2017, the average age of the 2.2 billion gamers worldwide was 35, and 41% were women. If PCs and dedicated game consoles are still the most popular devices to play on – 56% of gamers use the former, 53% the latter, smartphones amount for no less than 36% (non-exclusive of course, since a player may have access to all devices). Furthermore, mobile gaming proves to be the most lucrative market segment. Among the $109 billion revenue in 2017 for the total video game industry, mobile made up for $46 billion, while PCs and consoles accounted for $29 billion and $34 billion respectively. Mobile gaming should even amount for more than 50% of total market by 2020.

However, three major innovations may explain such a market expansion: new consoles, new devices and new business models. First, when Nintendo launched its DS, 3DS and Wii, the Japanese company managed to acquire new market segments by offering games such as Nintendogs, Dr Kawashima or Wii Sport, targeting specifically girls, the middle-aged and elders, or families. Smartphones had the same effect. Anyone with access to iOS or Android became a potential casual gamer at least and games quickly charted among the most downloaded apps everywhere. Finally, freemium and free-to-play business models put an end to barriers to entry by allowing to play without prior acquisition costs, addressing price-sensitive consumers’ concerns.

What about the streamers phenomenon? Ninja draws 4.87 million followers on Twitch and PewDiePie 61.53 million subscribers on YouTube because, as many other examples, they perform, making video games an entirely new form of entertainment. By doing so, they stage the diversity and creativity of video games themselves.

 

THE TENTH ART

The Franco-German TV network Arte, renowned for focusing on the arts and following cultural trends, recently launched two programs: Art of Gaming and History’s Creed, both related to video games. The latter have always been the results of artistic choices and the creators relentlessly try to push the limits of the technologies at hand. As exhibited in 2015 at the Art Ludique museum in Paris, video games combine all types of arts: drawings, paintings, sculptures help define characters and settings, while music, photography, animation give life to them. The combination of all these work-of-arts eventually offers players to step into a whole new world.

Indeed, immersion is key. From simple gameplays relying on time pressure like Supercell’s Clash Royale, to vast open worlds waiting to be explored as Bethesda’s Skyrim, and including strong narratives such as Naughty Dog’s Last of Us, each studio finds its own identity and develops its games accordingly to come up with the best gaming experience. Sometimes, they even strike the right emotional chord through unique interactive poetry that only video games like Okami, Child of Light or Journey can provide. As any other forms of art though, not only do video games say something of our society, they also influence it.

 

VIDEO GAMES: CULTURE TAKERS OR MAKERS ?

In less than six months, three video-game-themed movies were released in theatres (namely Jumanji, Tomb Raider and Ready Player One). Like comic superheroes, video game characters and stories deserve to be adapted to the big screen because they are icons, parts of our culture. Everyone recognizes Mario’s moustache and cap, Lara Croft’s braid and signature handguns, Pac-Man’s pie-like face or even Candy Crush’s appetising rows of candy. No wonder video games get their own official conventions worldwide. Electronic Entertainment Expos – dubbed E3, Paris Games Weeks, PAXes and so on are all unmissable exciting events celebrating the gaming culture.

On another hand, video games have become a real discipline, requiring skills, focus and training, hence e-sports. Call of Duty, League of Legends, Fifa or even mobile game Clash Royale are already subject to this rising trend. No matter the game type, as long as there is tension and opponents as well as goals are clearly identifiable, official competitions may strive worldwide. That is the reason why the International Olympic Committee is seriously considering adding competitive video gaming to their Olympic sports list. ESL, a company organizing e-sport competitions, had the opportunity to run a trial at PyeongChang a few days before the Opening Ceremonies of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

Nevertheless, video gaming’s most important impact on society is two-fold: it empowers players and brings them together. Notice how gamers use first-person pronouns when talking about their deeds, achievements, scores and successes. Winning or losing are taken personally. Video game characters are actively embodied, while other media are experienced more passively. That is also why it genuinely hurts when you are confronted to moral choices: who to save in The Walking Dead Telltale series? Who to allow in your country in Lucas Pope’s Papers, Please? Finally, the gaming industry is among the first to have grasped the importance of community. Of course, understanding a community and being able to manage it benefit the producers and distributors of the game, but truly, what gaming communities really highlight is the capacity video games have to bring people closer together, as Eric Jordan, CEO of Codename Entertainment, says in his TEDx Talk. Avatars come in all shapes and forms, teaching about tolerance and meritocracy.