Gaming all the way

In this great era of technological advancement, any new “EUREKA” in digital world has very limited and in fact, short lifespan. Ironically, these are the days of dying and reviving, fading into the gloom and coming up again with new enlightenment, dissolving into the dust and ashes and reincarnating with new form. Who would have thought that once popular valve based Radios, once forgotten with latest arrival of Walkman and digital music playing media, could possible again get the attention by masses with introduction of Smartphones in new accessible version? (And Walkman itself will fade in to the gloom). Who would have thought that once dumbed down as “Idiot Box” with its CRT filled body could do workout on technological treadmill to get the slim avatar of absolute “High Definition” clarity? (And with introduction of 4K TV, entirely new experience is awaiting for us). Still concentrating on “Short Life Span” definition for digital medium is true in terms of how longer particular digital media/gadgets will remain in conscience of masses with its usability and attraction factor. Usability will never be issue if one can really understand the real urges and requirement expected from the investment. But if attraction and presentation factors are playing along with social competitiveness of “catching-the-attention-of-public” compulsion, there is no limit to stop at something one owned. There is always new in the market. There is always something better out there.
Point of raising this introductory thought is to raise more profound question in terms of Gaming. Here gaming is used in most generic way possible, covering all those gadgets and games pertaining to it i.e. Computer, consoles, Kinect, Move, Online, Handhelds, Mobile, Tablets, future Steambox etc. Gaming has come a long way after its initiation and we can say with close approximation that it’s at peak of popularity and spread. Is gaming come to that part of curve where only possible way for that curve to proceed further is downwards? For me answer is definitely NO. Commercially and economically it stands tall on biggest and broadest shoulders of giants like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. Considering Valve also pitching in with its idea of home entertainment in terms of SteamBox, future is much brighter for gaming on the whole. So evaluating strength of commercial and economical pillars and placing them aside, what else required for this king of digital entertainment to retain and spread its root of popularity among audiences. Let’s get through that various underlying currents and measure the force of these currents in terms of gaming.
Mass Appeal: Considering the fact that almost every second home in US holds at least one gaming console will leave no scope for second thought to appeal of Gaming as entertainment. The fact is most owners have more than one gaming console or dedicated gaming devices. Even though this appeal is widespread in US & Europe, Japan, Korea, China etc., lot bigger potential market is still unexplored in terms of developing countries like India. With online and co-op gaming this appeal is on the rise, infecting everyone like viral with only difference is that there is no cure for this contagion.
Spread: Surprisingly,  Sales, Demographic and usage data published by ESA(2013) shows almost equal distribution of percentage among age groups of Under 18 years (32%), 18-35 Years(32%) and 36+ years (36%). Even gender demographic will blow some established nuances regarding to females in gaming with hefty 45% share of females while male counterpart barely managed to do better with 55%. Gone are the days when gaming had so little to offer that it was gender dominated. Now gaming has so diverse things to put on the table that everyone can find their share of entertainment value (More on this in next point). True to analogy of viral infection spread for this gaming virus is just going to be bigger in the future years to come.
Diversity: Here approach is to tackle diversity in terms of how diverse the classes of gamers and games are. It’s true that Gaming is expensive hobby in itself especially if you are catering to dedicated gaming needs. Still nowadays gaming consoles are well within grasp of middle-class households. Apart from this Gaming just spreading its arms and clawing out of that lonely, singled out, dark room of the teenager boy and getting its prime seat as main attraction of the family in the drawing-room. With Wii, Kinect and Move on the move no one in the family will want to opt out from filling his/her share of happiness from this ever flowing eternal fountain of entertainment. Also it has a lot to offer. Gaming doesn’t need to know what you play it just needs the tiny little urge within you; if you give in to play or not. Currently roster of games has covered everything one can imagine to play. To name the few game types includes FPS (First Person Shooter), TPS (Third Person Shooter), RTS (Real Time Strategy), RPG (Role Playing Genre), Adventure, Point and Click, MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online RPG), MMOBA (Massively Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), Action RPG, Turn Based, Tower Defense, Open World Exploration, Puzzlers, Platformers, Brawlers, Simulations etc. (And also variations with fusion of two or more of these types). So it’s not that one would not like gaming, it’s just one has never found out correct entry point from these many possibilities to enter this amazing universe.
Morphism: Morphism is nothing but the art of evolution in technological way. As said above, it’s very difficult for any new technological advancement to retain its position for longer period. Only way of doing that is by morphing into new phase and improves upon the originals by aligning with new technology. After 3D gaming, currently gesture based gaming is new wave. With Oculus Rift introducing virtual reality based 3D gaming; gaming has proved that this genre is here to stay for long long time through art of morphism.
Niche Audience catering: Gaming is not restricted to strict classification as entertainment medium nowadays. It is considered as art by many enthusiasts. Some games are designed as just interactive experience encapsulating abstract and philosophical ideas rather than clearly defined goals or quests. (Gone Home, The Path, Dear Esther are some of the examples). These games can leverage on directing gameplay on specific experience with limited budget and targeting much smaller or niche player base; deviating from generalized gameplay mechanic. It means that gaming is covering up that small percentage also in terms of player base.
Nostalgia and Fan base service: Biggest advantage Games have is loyal fan base and supportive player community. There are very few new IPs in the market every year. Generally more that 80% games are kind of either part of some series, revival of old games, reintroduction of old series, have some other popular media tie in, based on book, universe/world sharing, gameplay mechanic or game engine tie up i.e. some or other way fans of the original media continuously support it and in return game developers and publishers are bound to perform fan service with of course setting their eye on that increasing profit percentage with new player base. As previously evident, more than 60% of player age is more than 30 itself shows the loyalty and fan base service. Even publishers trying to milk this situation through powerful nostalgia factor by investing in games with old school gameplay nowadays.
Indie factor and modding: One biggest improvement came in Gaming world from last few years is the introduction of indie game development. With Steam and GOG like digital distribution services’ support, Indie developer got much more recognition and scope to shine on international level. Indie developers and small development companies are opting out for Kickstarters to fund the project with much more clearly defined scope, reducing the large budget involvement of giant publishers. This kind of set up has allowed many development and art skills to be transformed in successful indie development. Biggest advantage is to retain the original view of the game-play initially conceived by designer/game developer without interference of publishers and they can have free reign to achieve the final goal. In fact, nowadays these kinds of games are achieving more applause and critical acclimation with much wider scope of player recognition than before. Game toolkit made available with original games keeps gaming community buzzing and experimenting with mods which allows the product to stay in the market longer than its intended lifespan. (Who wants to forget the classic sandbox game tool experiment called Minecraft and out of the world dedicated player creations using the toolkit).
Reward system (feedback measurement): In simpler terms its nothing but value for money. Again taking the help of ESA survey and put the matters into statistical figures; 43% game players believe that games have much higher value for money than other entertainment media like movies, DVD etc. And why shouldn’t be? Nowadays minimum average game-play time of the games is considered around 10-15 hours, with RPG games eating 25-30 (if it’s from Bathesda than 50 hours also not enough)hours of your life. Considering replay value which is generally high when it comes to gaming, all those numbers get doubled. And it’s not possible to count all those human hours spent in MMORPGs altogether. Games, when done masterfully, are triumph in this way as giving the long exposure time no other media can retain entertainment and interest of the user with such diligence. (Who wants to stop playing without spending less than 50 hours from say Skyrim?)
At last putting all these aside, it’s better to wrap all these up with simple economical figure, which is $14.8 billion. This is what consumer spent on gaming contents (including retail and digital distribution) in the year of 2012. Considering the dedicated Hardware and accessories this figure will rise to whopping $20.77 billion in a single year of 2012. Gaming is here to stay for long time and if somehow one managed to keep away, it’s not long that this virus will surely infect him/her sooner or later.

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Famous electronic store in Switzerland dedicating entire floor to Gaming….
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