There are, on average, over 2.8 billion people playing video games in the world right now. As one of the most popular forms of entertainment and a global, multi-billion dollar industry that sustains a broad ecosystem of individuals, businesses and organisations, gaming’s impact on popular culture is undeniable.
Video gaming has gone fully mainstream, as visible in the increased acceptance of key aspects of gaming culture. It’s also had a significant impact on many other forms of media, both in the way they’re produced and consumed. Gaming technology has had a far-reaching effect, even being utilised in educational institutions across the world, while there are even those who believe gaming itself is an art form.
In this article, we’ll be diving into some of the ways in which gaming has impacted popular culture and its lasting effects.
The Gamification of the Big and Small Screen
Back in the early days of video gaming, a huge portion of the titles released on home consoles and computers were derived from movies and TV shows. The likes of Aliens, Robocop, Star Wars, E.T and Batman all inspired video game tie-ins. Even small-screen wonders like A.L.F, Duck Tales, Scooby-Doo and Garfield had their own game versions during the 1980s and 90s.
This began to change, however, as the millennium drew closer and the power players in the home entertainment industry realised just how powerful gaming was becoming.
It wouldn’t be long before TV shows were in development that were based on top-selling video games. How many hours did you spend enthralled by the on-screen adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog, the Super Mario Bros and Carmen Sandiego?
Although movies based on video games didn’t necessarily fare as well as their small-screen counterparts, that didn’t stop production companies from making them anyway – albeit to varying degrees of success.
Recently, there’s been a new surge of interest in game characters and franchises, leading to Detective Pikachu, Rampage, and Sonic The Hedgehog breaking the supposed curse of game-based movies. Meanwhile, with TV adaptations of Fallout, The Last of Us and Halo in the works, it’s clear that gamified media isn’t going away anytime soon.
Expansion of the Gaming Industry
The development of gaming technology throughout the decades, as well as the increase in consumer appetites for new experiences, led to the emergence of new gaming genres in the early 21st century.
Traditional brick-and-mortar based activities like slots gaming underwent a digital transformation, resulting in the release of online slot games that combined the visual and audio effects of video gaming with real-money prizes. Even ubiquitous board games like Scrabble and Monopoly are now being consumed online.
Then, of course, there’s the mobile gaming industry. Back in the late 20th century, mobile games were a mere novelty. In 2021, they make up a segment of the market that pulls in revenue of over $77 billion per year.
Today’s smartphones are essentially powerful handheld computers. It’s highly unlikely they would’ve reached this point in their evolution without that intrinsic link with the gaming industry.
Gaming as an Art Form?
Since the late 00s, there’s been an ongoing debate about the value of gaming outside its initial purpose.
Poised as it always has been on the cutting edge of innovation and technology, the growth of the gaming industry has given more niche advanced technologies such as virtual reality and cloud hosting a mainstream platform. If gaming hadn’t been around to popularise such new technologies, manufacturers would’ve had a much harder time communicating their application to processes and industries outside the entertainment field.
Gaming benefits technology and vice versa, but what about the value of gaming as an art form? Roger Ebert famously declared that “video games can never be art” in 2010, but this merely fuelled the outdated assumption that gaming is a “mindless” activity.
Verizon’s Chris Melissinos is just one of a number of respected individuals within the industry who has set out to prove that this is simply not the case. To Melissinos, games hold the “power to be one of the most important mediums of art that humanity has ever had”.