2017 Trends For Interactive Games
By Casey Hawkins
Video games have come a long way from their humble origins in dusty arcades. There are now 2.6 billion gamers worldwide. In 1995, there were only 100 million. A primary reason for this proliferation is that games appeal to a wide range of demographics – the average age of a gamer in the U.S. is 35. Casual female gamers have been on the rise since 2000 and continue to grow in numbers. As technology has developed, games have become much more than mere entertainment experiences. There are real world applications which can be derived from modern games, including tools for learning and foundations for Internet services.
The Game Within The Game
Games are typically skill based, and trial-and-error can often beset both casual and hardcore gamers. However, through the frustration and controller breaking, there are benefits to be had from this type of experience. They serve as engaged learning processes which may, in some instances, find a middle ground between anxiety and boredom in order to simulate “flow”. Common gaming conventions such as puzzle solving, managing resources and exploration can produce mental stimulation in a similar vein.
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Besides the self challenge that gaming provides, it also serves as a useful platform for collaboration. Massive multiplayer online (MMO) games such as World of Warcraft have upwards of 41 million users worldwide. Streaming services such as Twitch serve to amplify the communal gaming atmosphere through live streams of gaming competitions for games such as League of Legends. This streaming community has grown to reach 4.9 million monthly streamers as of 2016.
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The Game Beyond The Game
Innovations provided by gaming are now extending far beyond their own industry. Netflix, Amazon and Twitch are beginning to experiment with interactive shows, taking inspiration from retro style role playing games first featured on Atari in the 1980s. Content updates are now seen with virtually all forms of software, but had their origins in games. The first downloadable content (DLC) came in the form of a cable which could be connected to the Sega console of the 1990s. Graphics computations (GPUs) which are now being utilized for artificial intelligence have their roots in gaming as well, with Nvidia providing early examples in the 1990s. Continually developing immersive gaming tools are also finding use in various mediums beyond entertainment. The meditation app Headspace has been employed by athletes to relive stress and improve performance. Promoted realism in sports games such as FIFA have allowed real players to monitor strategy as it happens in the game and apply what they learn to real life. Advanced statistics from these types of games can also assist coaches and players in measuring performance, as seen with the expanded growth of advanced analytics in sports like baseball, basketball and football.
eSports: The Global Game?
The 2016 League of Legends world championship had 43 million online viewers and packed its 20,000 person capacity venue to the gills. The eSports phenomenon is real, and it’s growing exponentially among younger generations. Now, among millennials, 27% hold a significant preference for eSports, with 27% also holding a preference for traditional sports. Non-millennials hold a 45% preference for traditional sports, opposed to 13% for eSports. The year-by-year rate of growth of eSports monthly viewers has skyrocketed to reach 40% in 2016, equating to 161 million total monthly viewers. eSports is becoming increasingly part of mainstream society through unique partnerships with real sports teams and various media platforms. In February, the NBA and Take-Two, publisher of the hugely popular NBA 2K franchise, announced the 2K eSports league, which will feature partnerships with 17 NBA teams and debut in 2018. Facebook also just expanded its partnership with the streaming service ESL, the largest eSports company in the world, in order to feature around 5,500 hours of live-game streaming.
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No industry represents a better example of the growing human-to-computer relationship than that of gaming. As levels of interactivity and engagement continue to improve with enhanced technology, the ways in which gaming principles will pervade media platforms will grow in number. As predicted by Stanford University Professor Byron Reeves in 2007: “If you want to see what business leadership may look like in three to five years, look at what’s happening in online games.”