Gamers, Rise Up

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With the release of the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X at the end of the year, we will be entering the 5th generation of the two biggest gaming companies currently in the market. With rumours alluding to this being the last console generation for both enterprises, some believe that gaming will eventually die down and slip into its niche that it occupied for so many years. On the contrary, gaming will continue to grow and grow, as it has done since the turn of the century. Here, I will be discussing how I believe gaming is slowly becoming a huge influence on both our lives and pop culture itself.

Shifting Attitudes

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When gaming first began to emerge as a form of entertainment for households following the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), it was originally saw as a nerdy hobby. Similar to something like Dungeons and Dragons, it was associated with a stereotype of a non-athletic but intellectually orientated teenager. This can be saw through movies released in the 1980s, which stereotyped the typical ‘jocks’ and ‘geeks’ tropes we have now thankfully started to grow out of. This meant that gamers were few and far between, as it was not saw as a mainstream pastime.

If you compare this attitude to that of today, any type of person can be a gamer, and there are different levels of gaming. A person can still be considered a “nerd” if they extensively play games which fall into a fantasy role playing game (RPG) or a massively multiplayer online game (MMO), such as World of Warcraft. I highlight this game, as in the 2006 South Park episode “Make Love, Not Warcraft”, the protagonists are under attack from a stereotype of a ‘geek’, with his acne-ridden face, slouched posture and overweight body. However, for the most part, gaming is part of the mainstream, and there is a more positive attitude to those who game. I’m sure if Biff and Marty actually travelled to 2015, they’d be on Madden 16 instead of squabbling over the pesky Sports Almanac.

A Potential Job

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Who would have thought that one day, people could make millions from playing video games? It is a scary thought, that a person could accumulate so much wealth due to somebody else’s invention. Whether it be Youtube or Esports, the gaming community has become a lucrative market for potential investors and for the average person to become rich and famous overnight. For example, the most subscribed individual Youtube channel, Pewdiepie, has over 100 million subscribers, and is rumoured to have a net worth of 25 million dollars. Even the less popular Esport community, who are frequently gaining sponsorships from renowned brands, have created household names with their groups, such as FaZe. Gaming is such a marketable entity, because it is a budding sector, and the people who are a part of it are regular people, rather than athletes or academics — because anybody can be a Youtuber or any skilled gamer could compete in an Esport. Gaming being a potential line of work to anybody, even if they are not skilled at games and just have a likeable personality, means that more people are interested in it as a result, even adults.

Source Material

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Now, this works in two different ways. At first, studios would release rushed, poor quality game tie ins to movies. This was a large practice back in the 90s, with Goldeneye 007 actually performing better than the movie counterpart. Film tie ins were massive, but tended to be of poor quality. This is because studios were rushed to finish the game to release it alongside the film. Whilst this tended to occur on blockbusters in the 90s, it was mainly marketed for kids films at the turn of the millennium. In my mind, I can remember playing the Emperor’s New Groove, Chicken Little and G-Force during my formative years. However, since the end of the noughties, this practice is less common, with Lego tie-in games being the only major releases which could be classed under this category. So, what has happened? Now, films tend to licence their IP to be included in a pre-existing game, since it is quicker and cheaper, or through mobile games — Most children under 10 will refer to John Wick as a “Fortnite Skin”, rather than a Belarusian-American Assassin killing people with a pencil.

Another use of movie IP is by creating a new story using their characters, rather than having a game which follows the movie beat-for-beat. The first major example that comes to my mind is the Batman Arkham games, which use the character and create a brand new story separate from the comics or movies which he inhibits. Studios give game developers the freedom to create their own narrative, and do not give a strict deadline, resulting in hits such as Spiderman PS4 and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Whilst these properties are based more on comic books and novels, it is the movie studios who possess the licensing who are authorising these games. This method is a lot more lucrative, and it is likely film studios will lend their IP to more established developers in future.

The second way it works is that games are adapted into movies or TV shows. This is less popular, due to the fact that the quality tends to be lower. Video game movies have always been poorly recieved, whether it be the Super Marios Bros or the Doom films. The problem is that whilst a movie or comic book character can go on its own fleshed out adventure in a 10 hour game, a film has either two options — completely steal the game’s narrative, which has to be condensed into a 2 hour cinematic outing (a la 2018’s Tomb Raider), or has to create its own narrative, whilst also trying to establish the characters and not be bland (a la Assassins Creed). Either way, the movies are always worse than the game it is based on. However, with the recent successes of the Detective Pikachu and Sonic movies, studios are lining up trying to snap up lucrative IP. Whilst we have had confirmation of a Last of Us series on HBO Max and Fallout series on Amazon Prime, rumours continue to circle on potential movie adaptations of Call of Duty, Uncharted and Minecraft. These may be unfounded, but just the name alone is bound to intrigue even those who do not play the games, proving the pulling power video games have over the general population.

Quality

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As referenced previously in the article, the NES was the first home console which really announced itself to the world. If we were to compare that console to the next generation of gaming, the leaps and bounds are staggering. Even between each generation of Xbox and Playstation, the improvements are exceptional. For example, a Playstation 2 had purchasable 8mb memory cards, whereas the internal storage of a base model Playstation 3 could reach 160gb — this is 20,000 times bigger between a single generation. So, the hardware quality has improved immensely, but the consoles are still a reasonable price.

Not only has the quality of the consoles gotten better, but also the games themselves. This is in every aspect — the narratives, the gameplay and the graphics are smooth and life-like for the most part. Whilst games may still be buggy or not as polished, they are still much more playable than most games from 20 years ago. No other entertainment industry has drastically improved in every possible way at this rate, and it is a trend that will surely continue.

Variety

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Whilst the overall quality improving at an exponential rate is staggering enough, the level of diversity of both games and the consoles to play them on makes it even more impressive. The console wars, in my opinion, are a very childish although sometimes humorous debate. However, would there be console wars if both systems were not amazing and unique in their own capacity? Probably not. The Xbox Series X will be the most powerful console of all time, whilst the Playstation 5 will have the best exclusive games on the market. That’s not even including Nintendo Switch, which is the most innovative console since the Wii (also Nintendo’s machine), nor the PC, which is constantly evolving and offers more choices for its gamer in terms of price and parts. Although you could say that something like the music or movie industry has different ways of offering its audience ways to experience their material, all with their own unique benefits, there is no industry in the world which offers so many varieties of experience to its consumers as gaming.

To add to this, can any other industry offer so many different genres of work in so many styles of work? Again, this is unlikely. If you want to play a Sci-fi indie game, there is No Man’s Sky. If you want to play an animated driving game, there is Mario Kart. If you want to play essentially an interactive TV show, any Telltale game would fit this bill. Gaming offers something a lot of other entertainment sectors cannot — unlimited options to its consumer.

Willingness to Take Risks

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Something I mentioned in my Hollywood Cinema article was that movie studios are unlikely to take risks, knowing that it could lose them a lot of money. If you compare this to the gaming industry, how many risks have Nintendo alone taken in the last 20 years? Whilst it was not the first handheld gaming device, the Gameboy and the Nintendo DS were gamechangers, and inspired Playstation to release their portable model a year later. Similarly, the Nintendo Wii beat out its generation rivals to be the top selling console worldwide, and led its competitors to try to emulate their success with the Xbox Kinect and the Playstation Move, both under-performing. Even now, the Switch and the Labo are unique concepts, with their ingenuity and popularity meaning Nintendo will likely continue to introduce one-of-a-kind systems for the foreseeable.

Now, I’m not saying that every risk taken has worked out. The Wii U was a colossal failure, and lost Nintendo a lot of money, due to confusion over what it actually was and the lack of third party games included on the system. Meanwhile, the PSP’s spiritual successor, the PS Vita, was abandoned a few years after launch, with its legacy being cheaply made third party spin-offs based on existing franchises. However, these minor losses should not deter companies from innovating and creating new systems, as long as they learn from their previous errors, especially since these risks benefit the industry in general, whereas other industries remain static.

Conclusion

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Gaming has evolved from being a simple past time for a small few to one of the biggest industries in the modern landscape. For a myriad of reasons, it is growing in both popularity and players. Now instead of gamers being in the minority, they are most certainly in the majority. So, if innovation continues to occur and risks continue to be taken, gaming will surely one day be the largest entertainment industry in the world.

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Lewis Pearce

Lewis Pearce

22. First Class Law (LLB) Degree Graduate based in North-West England. Writing on a mixture of topics, including music, film, football and gaming.