The Changing Nature of Video Games

Essay_chatfield11 Tom Chatfield in Prospect (UK):

The complexity of games like Warcraft and Eve is not the only aspect of modern gaming to defy stereotype. Consider demographics: where once gaming was the preserve of adolescent males, players increasingly come from all age groups and both sexes. According to the Entertainment Software Association of America, the world’s largest gaming association, the average American video game player is now 35 years old and has been playing games for 12 years, while the average frequent buyer of games is 40. Moreover, 40 per cent of all players are women, with women over 18 representing a far greater portion of the game-playing population (33 per cent) than boys aged 17 or younger (18 per cent). Much of the recent growth in the value of the gaming industry has been driven by the increased diversity and affluence of its consumer base; the hard core of adolescent males are no longer central. In Britain, Ofcom’s annual Communications Market report for 2007 noted that, despite the electronic games market continuing to grow in value, significantly fewer children were playing console and computer games than two years previously (61 per cent of children aged 5-15 did so regularly in 2005, compared to 53 per cent in 2007).

Perhaps most intriguingly, the video games industry is now growing in ways that have more in common with the old-fashioned world of charades and Monopoly than with a cyber-future of sedentary, isolated sociopaths. GTA IV itself has a superb collaborative mode for online gamers, while the games that have been shifting most units in the last two years belong to a burgeoning new genre known as “social-casual”: games in which friends and relations gather round a console to compete at activities that range from playing notes on a fake electric guitar (Guitar Hero) to singing karaoke and swapping videos of their performances, X-Factor style (SingStar), or playing tennis with motion-sensitive controllers (Wii Sports). The agenda is increasingly being set by the concerns of mainstream consumers—what they consider acceptable for their children, what they want to play at parties and across generations.