What was once a mildly frowned-upon hobby is now a billion-dollar industry that rivals the longstanding power of the music and film worlds. They’re becoming more immersive every year with inventions like VR pushing the boundaries of the medium to new extremes.
In a post-pandemic world, video games’ ability to provide a digital ‘third place’ or recreational space is particularly powerful. Let’s look at how video games are changing both in their form and in their function, and why you should be paying attention.
A Growing Social Responsibility
‘With great power comes great responsibility’ is ringing particularly true for game developers who want to cater to their fans whilst avoiding fire from news outlets and concerned parents. Few pieces of media have created as much controversy and notoriety in the last 20 years than video games.
A lot of the judgements and concerns around the ethics of video games are valid. They’ve been known to spread misogynistic views and normalize gratuitous violence. They then rely on children and teenagers to buy their products, people who maybe shouldn’t be exposed to these themes and ideas.
Gamergate And A New Generation Of Gamers
Following the infamous ‘Gamergate’ event, many mainstream studios have moved towards inclusive characters and themes. This move received a mixed reaction from the old gaming community, but it no longer mattered. The gaming community has changed as games have changed, and this wider audience has generally accepted this transition as the morally responsible thing to do.
What was Gamergate? For those who don’t know, Gamergate started when a game developer accused his then-girlfriend of cheating on him to further her career as a gaming journalist. This event started an ugly backlash against female involvement in the gaming industry that exposed the regressive views held by a large portion of the subculture.
Instead of forcing women out of the video game industry, the backlash served to see an increase of diversity in video game narratives and a distancing of studios from their original fanbase. This left the window open for a new wave of gamers and game enthusiasts who had once felt excluded from these digital worlds.
Video Games And The Pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic saw a huge upsurge in interest in video games as people around the world started searching for ways to keep themselves occupied. What they found was a world that could easily be compared to social media, but without the need for a serious virtual persona. Video games had become a new ‘third place’.
A third place is a space apart from the home and the workplace where people gather to socialize. Bars, gyms and churches are all examples of third places. Zoom meetings and photoshop might represent digital workspaces, places of production. Tumblr or Instagram could represent a home space – a place curated with things one finds beautiful or comforting. Video games then would represent the spaces most affected by the pandemic – places where social gatherings occur.
Whether you like it or not, video games and pokies apps will no doubt come to represent a large portion of what constitutes leisure time in coming years.