If we go back twenty or even ten years, most in-home entertainment was provided by the TV. Given pride of place in the living room, it was where the family congregated, and it became the focus of leisure time for young and old alike. We watched The Price is Right, Saved By The Bell, and plenty of other shows which don’t compare to those of the internet years.
In recent years, with the advent of the gaming console, a new form of entertainment started to take over. However, this is no longer the preserve of young males; gaming has become a popular past time for all kinds of different people, with gamers choosing to play their favourites on a PlayStation, X-Box, PC, their mobile, or even on social media sites such as Facebook.
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The influence of social gaming on the gaming industry
In the past there was a stereotypical image of a gamer as someone, most likely a young male, who sat alone in their room night after night playing game after game. He possibly subscribed to some sort of printed magazine to keep him up to date with all the latest games, tips, and strategies. Maybe he exchanged tips and tricks with his friends, but if they wanted to play together, it meant meeting up at someone’s house, and bringing their own controllers along for the ride. Even then, the maximum number of players was limited to four.
Fast forward a few years, and this picture has totally changed. Nowadays, a gamer is just as likely to be female – in fact a recent study found that the amount of female gamers has surpassed male. And there’s no age limit either; it’s not just a hobby for the young male. However, perhaps the most significant change is the arrival on online gaming, meaning that there’s the potential for unlimited players, and gamers can now take on each other from wherever in the world they happen to be located. In fact, mobile gaming on smartphones and portable devices is the fastest growing aspect of gaming. Anyone can now play any game, wherever and whenever they like, plus they can interact with other gamers at the touch of a button.
Encourages more people to play at home
Not only has the average gamer undergone a transformation, but the way that they access games and games related information has changed too. If a gamer wants to know the latest information about any game, they just have to drop into their favourite social network. Whether that’s YouTube, Vimeo or DailyMotion, they’ll find literally thousands of videos and tutorials posted online, or by simply typing their query into game-specific search engines, they’ll be rewarded with umpteen techniques to try.
However, this use of the internet isn’t purely limited to finding information, tips and tactics, but has developed into a way to interact socially with other gamers. A gamer doesn’t even have to leave their home to play against or alongside other participants. They can do it from the comfort of their own bedroom, office, or anywhere where they have access to an internet connection. By simply joining a social network such as Facebook, gamers are now able to compete against other gamers, who may comprise anyone from schoolchildren to parents and grandparents, from the working class to the gentry.
Technology has revolutionised the way we interact in a gaming sense
While many of us have already got in the social gaming act, some gamers have taken it one step further by becoming professionals. This is a world where gamers can compete in international competitions for a chance to win big prizes. But perhaps, the most interesting point of all, is that it’s become a new ‘sport’, as they actually compete in front of live audiences, and have many millions more watching them on live TV streams or online. So not only are these professional gamers able to make money from what was once the butt of many people’s jokes, but it’s forcing a total reassessment of the gaming industry as a whole.
Gaming is no longer a solitary hobby
Gamers are no longer likely to be played alone, multi-screening has become huge, with players spending their time on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as sharing their strategies on YouTube and Vimeo, and competing against their friends, or complete strangers from the other side of the world on iconic, not to mention addictive, games such as Candy Crush Saga and Angry Birds.
In fact Candy Crush Saga has become an international phenomenon, with Facebook fans galore encouraging their friends to join Tiffi and Mr Toffee on their adventure through the Candy Kingdom.
It’s estimated that 93 million people play Candy Crush Saga every single day, accounting for 1.085 billion games per day! Quite unbelievable figures.
Since its debut in 2009, Angry Birds has been downloaded over 300 million times, and is on track to reach 1 billion downloads.
And if that wasn’t enough, 200 million minutes of Angry Birds is played every day. A truly incredible statistic when you think that it equates to 16 years of game play, 24 hours a day.
While video games have progressed since the early days of Super Mario series, which incidentally is still in the list of all-time top selling games, games such as Minecraft, released in 2009 and Grand Theft Auto V, released in 2013, now dominate the charts.
To keep up with the demand for online games, many online gaming sites have emerged over the last few years. Online casinos in the UK have taken card games and online casinos one step further and are now offering a range of movie themed slot titles.
While poker was usually a game played by friends or family at home, now it’s possible to practice your skills and experience the thrill of friendly competition online. If you can’t get together physically with your friends in one place, you can simply log onto their site and create your own private online poker club. By doing so, you can choose who can join in up to a maximum of 50 members, so you’ll never be short of someone to play with. Every member gets access to your club’s private software, so you can invite them to play anytime, and no matter where they are. No longer do you have to all be in the same room, and with over 1.3 million people from 200 different countries and over 500, 000 home games clubs, you can see that there is a great demand for this kind of social gaming.
The future for social gaming
Just last month, hundreds of game developers, publishers and analysts attended the annual Develop Conference in Brighton to discuss the future of social gaming. Subjects such as how to use the market place to make money were high on the agenda, however it was the direction in which online gaming as whole is developing which aroused most interest. Of particular interest was the suggestion that gamers of the past have now become parents with children of their own, and that they’re passing their interest and passion onto their children. In fact, a recent study showed that up to 75% of the parents surveyed played video games with their children. Furthermore, it seems that gaming and hand held devices such as tablets, has led to a reduction of TVs in children’s rooms, and families actually spending more time together in communal rooms. This information is leading games developers to create more games which can entertain both adults and their children.
However, it’s perhaps the new generation of games that are proving most interesting, where virtual worlds are created that operate as both gaming and social spaces, and which will have a range of networking features for more dynamic social experiences. These already exist, with Minecraft being an extremely popular venue for gamers to meet, talk, and collaborate. This trend is set to continue and develop as games providers look at more ways to turn gaming into a social activity.