Brian Gallagher in Nautilus:
The popularity of video games is staggering. Last year, the top 25 public game companies—China’s Tencent, Sony, and Microsoft ranking highest—had annual earnings of more than $100 billion for the first time.1 The United States video game industry earned more than global box office movie ticket sales, U.S. video streaming subscriptions, and the U.S. music industry.2 By 2021, according to Statista, a market research firm, 2.7 billion people will be playing video games, up from 1.8 billion five years ago. A Pew survey reveals the age group that plays most often is 18 to 29.3In the 30 to 49 age group, nearly 50 percent of men and 40 percent of women play. A study in Europe shows people 45 and up are more likely to play video games than children aged 6 to 14.
…Pete Etchells, a professor of psychology and communications in England, and author of a new book, Lost in a Good Game, thinks video games tap into the reaches of emotional and moral faculties that traditional arts and entertainment can’t reach. The player can drive action, exert agency, and explore imagined worlds freely. Video games, Etchells says, “embody the principles of existentialism.” A story can be cathartic but only a game can make you feel guilty for what you’ve done or were compelled to do. A 2010 paper in Review of General Psychology states, “Compared with other media such as books, films, and radio, electronic games appear to have an unusually expansive appeal and serve a surprising number of emotional, social, and intellectual needs.”4 For Etchells, an avid gamer, video games are a “creative medium” that can “offer us unparalleled opportunities for exploring what it means to be human.”