Why Do People Continue to Love Video Games?

video game controllers

According to most people in the know, playing video games on a console should probably be well and truly out of fashion by now.  The old traditional tv networks are on the decline as are most newspapers and magazines and reduced profits are a cause for worry. And we now also have Netflix which is hugely popular with their new and innovative television programs available for all.

The Popularity of Video Games

The go-to thing seems to be digital, streaming, cross platform content. However, there was a huge backlash when Microsoft presented the Xbox One Video game console and was effectively promoting a digital plan.  They were forced to do a complete about face in order to keep their customer base happy.

With the increase in mobile gaming, and the many options of winning a progressive jackpot on a mobile, commentators have been saying that the end is in sight for the console. But, not too long ago, Sony and Microsoft were both promoting new consoles, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. Both of these have since become by far the most popular video game consoles ever.   They both sold well over a million items in a very short period of time, like 24 hours.

Video games are played in approximately 70 percent of homes.  According to the Entertainment Software Association, 40 percent of players are women and the median age of players is around 35 years.   This shows how popular video games are across the nation.

A survey carried out by the MacArthur Foundation found that of the 12 to 17 year olds people included in the survey, 99 percent of the boys played video games and 94 percent of the girls did also.  There didn’t seem to be much difference in terms of ethnicity.  According to market research carried out by Newzoo, Americans spend around $20 billion on games.

When you look at games such as Plants verses Zombies and Angry Birds or Farmville and Words With Friends, which are more social games, you come to realize that people you wouldn’t expect to be, are also gamers.

Strangely, the passion for these consoles has never been as great.  Arguments consist of which console is the best.   It seems that Americans really do love their video games.

More than mere entertainment

Video games have been part of our world since the 1980’s.  They are a great means of entertainment.   Video games, it seems, really do speak to people.  As the numbers show, they are obviously important to a lot of people.

Many see this form of entertainment as a complete waste of time.  Reading a good book or training in some form of sport might be better.   So why do people turn to video games?

It is difficult to explain the feeling, for instance, when you play something like Bioshock Infinite. The story is amazing.  When you play it all the way through to the end you get to experience how “string theory”, a theory presenting alternate realities, produces an amazing ending.

Players can become part of the story and if the story is an interactive one they become even more interesting.  Quantum mechanics were involved in the ending of Bioshock Infinite and it created such a buzz that gamers were discussing the final plot at digital gatherings.

In an interview with Game Informer, the man who produced the game, Kevin Levine, said that it was only possible to create this because of the interactive nature of the video game. “We had to make that whole sequence interactive. That was really tricky because it wasn’t just complicated from a development standpoint, but it was also conceptually a complicated notion”.

Also, in Neil Druckmann’s, The Last of Us, the ending is interactive.  The last segment is where, Joel, the hero is trying to rescue Ellie, his surrogate daughter.  During the game Joel has killed many zombies.  In the last scene, however, there are doctors without weapons who are part of the group who have kidnapped Ellie.  When playing the game you don’t have to kill these doctors, but you can.

This is part of the interactive process.  These games allow you to experience risk taking actions.  In the real world these actions would likely have real life consequences.

Jane McGonigal, designer of video games says that “in today’s society, computer and video games are fulfilling genuine human needs that the real world is currently unable to satisfy”.  In the book Reality is Broken it is argued that these video games engage us and bring us together in ways that reality does not.   This is surely a good thing,

Games like Mass Effect for instance allows players to choose whether to be the good character or the bad one. Some will be drawn to the good guy and some to the bad.   The choice will affect how the storyline plays out.   However, many games that incorporate a moral theme, like Mass Effect, have a storyline that tends to promote the good guy and not the villain.

It also seems that most players like to play the hero, according to those who put out Mass Effect.  There is a morality system being presented here but sometimes the differences between the good and the bad are a little hazy.

Sometimes video games can help us solve what seem to be immutable problems.  We live in a complicated world where sometimes there seems to be no solutions to our problems.  In Angry Birds, for instance, we are given the chance to solve what appear to be unsolvable problems.

This adds to mainstream appeal. Tetris is a game like this. In the middle of the Cold War, Nintendo consulted with Soviet Union computer programmers in order to get the copyright for a game they wanted to put together with Gameboy.  It succeeded in selling over 33 million copies on Gameboy alone.   Now you can play the game on your smartphone and other formats.

Harold Goldberg wrote a book called, All Your Base Are Belong To Us.  In it he refers to Tetris and the difficult negotiations between Nintendo and the Soviets and also the high price in acquiring it.  Was it worth it?  Afterall we do have the game Mario and all the boys already love it!   The answer was that if you only want boys to play then include Mario but if you want every member of the family to play, then you must include Tetris.

The last word

Tetris was very balanced among the genders and had a huge player base. It still creates much interest to those interested in playing the game and also to those doing research. Studies carried out at the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque suggest that Tetris actually promotes efficiency of the brain.  Figuring out how to fit the T-shape into the Tetris puzzles may, it seems, be really good for you. When Tetris initially came onto the scene, people commented on how relaxing it was to work on putting the puzzle together.

So why is it that Americans love playing video games?  For them it is normal. They grew up with them and can’t imagine life without them.  They have become just part and parcel of our lives.  Once it may have been an activity for the lonesome teenager but this is definitely not the case anymore.

About the author

Tom

35 years old, married with children (1). My gaming is done exclusively on the Xbox One these days, but my gaming history goes all the way back to the Atari 2600. FPS and racing games mostly, but I dive into other genres on occasion.

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  • Right now I’m using video games to give a little exercise in my daughters day. My wife and I have been toying with the idea of getting my daughter a Wii u to play some dance party games. It’s been a big hit thus far and keeps her active during COVID-19