GamingRichard Pickering

$400m in 24 hours is a BIG number

They'll be sitting next to you in your office right now and you may not even know it or think about it. 

$400m in 24 hours is a BIG number

Gamers: they're everywhere and it's not just the stereotypical teenager - mums, dads, colleagues, celebrities and possibly even the woman on the bus playing Angry Birds are all gamers.  Video gaming has grown into a massive category and, by some accounts, the largest entertainment industry, larger even than Hollywood; the latest Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2', was the highest grossing film of 2011, taking £9million on its first day at the box office in the UK , yet this all pales into comparison when we compare this to the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 which earned $1billion in a mere two weeks after launch.  It would seem that gaming is set to keep on growing.

Though we do not wear the Virtual Reality body suits promised to us in the '80s and '90s, to some extent we've gone further than could have been imagined. Gaming has led the charge in terms of tech development, constantly evolving and developing.  Games used High Definition (HD) graphics long before the TV companies were selling us the benefits and encouraging us to upgrade to 1080p.  Only two years ago, we marvelled at the Wii and the way that we could move our bodies to control our avatars on screen; already the technology has gone further and with Microsoft's Kinect, the Xbox 360 requires no controller at all, bringing the marvels of gaming's immersive interaction to all and ensuring the console's place in the living room is a permanent one.

Yet there is more to gaming than just the wonder of the technology and the beauty of the graphics that it presents. The experiences that gaming offers us have grown and developed too.  At one extreme there are the MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft which create rich, intricate and persistent worlds that continue to exist and grow even after you as the player have left the game. These games offer the opportunity to lose yourself in a different world and experience a unique story where you can take whichever role you like - it is like reading a good novel, only in this case you get to take control of the action.

There are then of course the games that may be more familiar to us such as FIFA which allows young guys to live out their fantasies of playing for their favourite Premiership team and it even allows dad to put his football knowledge into practise - can his years of experience and knowledge of the game beat his son's?  In households up and down the county the battle is played out daily.  There are also the games that let us vent our anger and frustration or simply live out transgressive fantasies, from racing along the street at high speed in Need For Speed The Run, to robbing banks in Grand Theft Auto.  Then there are the games such as Starcraft 2 for the creative minds who want to strategise or build empires and rule worlds to simply taking control of one person's life as in The Sims.

Yet for all these immersive worlds, stories and experiences that gaming presents us with, it neglects the fact that the world of online gaming has created the chance to spend more time with friends.  From the guilds in Warhammer Online, to racing friends through to playing against them on the pitch, it is an opportunity for people to come together.  In the past when friends would gather to hang out on street corners, bus shelters or the park, but now the moment has moved online - and we might argue has become all the richer for it.

There is also another growing trend in the world of video games and that is the much smaller games that are typified by apps on iPhones or the games that people play on Facebook.  These games fill the dead time that we have, whether waiting for other people, travelling or public transport or just giving us something to do when the TV no longer engages us.  However, these games do exploit the social aspect - how many of us have looked jealously as a friend's farm in Farmville, or tried desperately to get to the top of the leader-board in Plants vs Zombies or Bejewelled Blitz.  This stands in testament to the fact that a good game is as much about the experience it offers as it is about the graphics and the world we immerse ourselves in.

So how far can we stretch the term gaming?  We suspect that we would all agree that plunging into the action adventure world of Red Dead Redemption is definitely a gaming experience; would we say the same about SingStar?  And what about Wii Sports, or Words With Friends? And does the gamification of interfaces, websites or even market research surveys count?  These are all further examples of the way in which gaming has grown up and gone mainstream and become seamless with our world.  

So, the future of gaming looks extraordinary as it continues to set records for entertainment launches and as the audiences get bigger.  As the consoles move into the prime space in the living room and social networking games become even more every day, then the audiences are likely to mainstream even further and continue to grow and who knows, one day even granny could be head of the leader-board on an FPS…?

 

Approx. first day global sales of Call of Duty: MW3. See http://uk.xbox360.ign.com/articles/121/1212246p1.html

See 'Fun Inc. Why games are the 21st Century's most serious business', by Tom Chatfield, http://www.zdnet.co.uk/blogs/zdnet-uk-book-reviews-10015295/book-review-fun-inc-10015315/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/harry-potter/8642355/Harry-Potter-and-the-Deathly-Hallows-Part-2-smashes-box-office-records.html/