I wrote this post 3 years ago but never got round to publishing it, I found the draft while going through my music folder. I find my writing style to have been a little juvenile and passive aggressive at the time but I thought best to post this as it was written then without any corrections. Please note that some of the figures below are now out of date.
“I’m writting this piece so I can express my bewilderment as to the general public’s ignorance in regards to modern videogames and the people who play them.
As a proud console owner, I sometimes feel that adult gamers are often the subject of ridicule due to their purportedly childish hobby. Those jokes often come from people who haven’t touched a console since they were what? 12?!
Lets start with a couple of facts about the gaming industry:
- The commercial videogame industry has been around for close to 40 years.
- The global industry is worth £35+ billion pounds.
- The industry directly provides 32000 jobs in the US alone and a lot more in peripheral companies.
The industry has yearly trade shows like TGS and E3 where gaming journalists (yes these are journalists that report on games similar to those that report on films).
The ‘playstation generation’ as we are sometimes referred to, has grown up in parallel with the growth and maturity of the games industry. I started in the late 80s playing on my dad’s Amstrad PC. Graphics weren’t much but gameplay was solid on games like Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon. I moved up to the Atari console which had many more games and then onto the MegaDrive where I was introduced to Street Fighter. When the 16-bit era started, SOnic the hedgehog and other staples of the videogame industry were born. The games were targeted to gamers under 18 as they likely were the only generation that had grown up playing the earlier videogames, therefore it was assumed that only they would be interested in the industry.
Lets not forget though that the games were being developed by adults for big companies and those adults had probably not played many if any video games during their youth simply because they didnt exist at the time. Mortal Kombat was released in arcades and afterwards ported onto consoles. MK was definitely not a kids’ game and featured violence and gore in a very surreal way but this gave us gamers an insight into the future of gaming as we journeyed into adult life. As violence became mainstream thanks to movie franchises like lethal weapon, Terminator, Die Hard, Predator, it became acceptable to have violence in videogames as long as they were properly labelled. This was another phase of videogames maturing with the gamers and the society around them.
A few years later came the Playstation, fathered by Ken Kuturagi. The console was groundbreaking in terms of technical ability giving developers the possibility to build interactive 3D worlds for gamers to do battle in. Videogame realism further improved giving opportunities for games to try and emulate the special effects found in movies. The improved memory capabilities of Compact discs also allowed for better story telling in games. As gamers were getting older and more educated, their tastes were changing and growing progressively. They didnt just want to shoot monsters, they wanted a reason to shoot the monsters, they wanted to know their character’s backstory so they can relate to them. They wanted believable enemies so they could understand why they had to shoot them. The playstation has sold 102 million units worldwide since its release.
Gamers and developers of every calibre embraced the console and the industry giving rise to developers who would specialise in certain genres of games, some would specialise on a specific franchise and others on specific gamer age groups.
The original amstrad PC gamers were now in their early 20s and going into the employement world (to which many a gamer was to be lost and never recovered). Those who did stick to the hobby, used their hard earned cash to purchase consoles and games. With the advent of the internet, gamer communities were created around forums, people sharing walkthroughs, writing reviews and creating mods for PC games. The advent of the Playstation also brought in better FMV (full motion video) support, CD music and VCD playback, bringing games a tad closer to the movie entertainment industry. Games now had intricate plots, characterisations, voice acting, drama (see: Metal Gear Solid).
The latter elements of a game were created not just because the technology allowed for it but also due to the demand from older gamers for…well ‘older gamer oriented games’. We wanted stories that would rival the ones we read/watch on television, special effects that would rival Sci-fi blockbusters and characters/worlds that would be easily recognisable as a brand just like other parts of our life was similarly branded: NIKE, NISSAN, SONY, NOKIA etc.
Gaming was always part of pop culture but it has now become even more prominent and dare I say …mainstream.
If you’re curious about this hobby, please ask a friend who has a console to help you play one of their favorite games and ask them why they like it so much. You never know, you may have a hidden talent at a particular game!