February 21, 2024
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February 21, 2024
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Before we begin, it should be noted that Ungarbled Tech spoke about video games before. However, that was nearly four years ago, and as cool as my dad is, he’s (seemingly) been out of the industry for a long time. Video games have existed for decades, and the industry has evolved far from Pong and Ms. Pac-Man. One thing that makes video games different from other media is the relationship between developers and players. In most media, all of the customers’ opinions are a one-time thing. People watch a movie, whether they like it or not, and move on. Movies, TV and music either work and make money, or they are total flops.

The modern video-gaming industry is a continuous service. With a live-service approach, players are encouraged to give their opinions on the state of their games, and developers make improvements to an existing product. A single game will be worked on for a long life cycle. A single product could employ a team for under a year or indefinitely; it all depends on the community response.

Anthem, for example, was a well-made, marketed game that fell short, and within two years, it was shut down. The game’s failure became the prime example of a developer’s mistakes leading to lost investments and wasted money. On the other hand, a successful game can keep its community going for years and its studio making money for decades.

This duality makes video games a high-risk, very high-gain industry. The right game will make its makers and the industry very rich. In fact, as of 2023, it has become a $200 billion business annually. Today, professional players compete for million-dollar jackpots. With all of that said, the most important part of the industry is not the financial side, but the players.

Most people imagine video games as teenagers hiding under a blanket in a dark basement. The truth is that gaming has become far more universal than that. Video games are played by billions of people worldwide. As many as 3.09 billion people are playing video games as of 2023.

Despite video games being so widely available and enjoyed by billions of people, it is still a very misunderstood industry. Here are—in my opinion—the most important things to know about video games.

In the early years of video games, people studied the effects of games on children and concluded that video games harm kids’ attention span, grades and development. A lot of these older studies only measured video games’ effect on children. However, the reality is, many teens and adults play the game as well. First, some games are rated T for teens, M for Mature, or 18+, so in my opinion, measuring children removes a whole market from the study.

Secondly, some games are marketed to adults—more adults than children play games like Candy Crush, online Chess and Tetris. In fact, Candy Crush is now known as “mom’s favorite game” and not marketed for children. The kids from the ’80s and ’70s who played in arcades still play those games, and to assume that they are no longer part of the gaming industry would be akin to assuming that people who listened to music in the ’70s stopped listening to music after they turned 18.

There are also several positive impacts on our daily lives due to the evolution of the gaming industry. Take our health, for example. The Wii and Microsoft’s Kinect were initially used as ways for people to become active in playing video-game versions of activities they cannot do.

Since then, virtual reality has cornered the market, creating a way for people to experience inaccessible activities like skiing in the summer or entirely impossible activities like fighting dragons or climbing mountains. Since video games are so widely played, controllers have been introduced to everything from recreational drones to military tanks. People have been using simulations to introduce themselves to flying, sports, architecture and numerous other interests that begin as video games.

Flight simulators used to be incredibly expensive and unattainable for most people. By now most people can buy a flight simulator. Architects today can tell you about their love for Lego transitioning to professions in architecture. Perhaps our future generation of architects will tell stories about developing a love for architecture from Minecraft. Games like these become a stepping stone to real-life applications in the same way that physical games are.

Before I finish, I want to touch on one thing that has come up since Ungarbled Tech wrote about video games a few years ago. This is the concept of “loot boxes.” The base concept is having a system within a game that allows players to spend currency—real or virtual—to try to unlock things within the game. These rewards can range from unlocking helpful items or adding cosmetic looks to avatars or characters.

These practices have come under fire recently as they are considered a form of gambling, since players seldom know what they are getting. Additionally, even games rated for adults or late teens are often played by children, and marketing towards kids is a huge legal issue, especially with gambling.

Nearly a year ago, Electronic Arts, one of the largest video-game development companies, was sued in a Dutch court for “exploiting children for profit” with their practices. Although the court sided with the video-game giant, citing that these mechanics are not essential parts of the game, the danger and the controversy remain.

There has been progress in removing these practices around the world including in the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries and regions. Formal legislation has not been passed in most countries, but after a British study linked these “loot boxes” to real-life gambling addictions in children, many developers have distanced themselves completely from the practice.

For you, the reader, it is important to be aware of this issue. Do you and your children know how dangerous (and wasteful) this can be? Do they understand what they are spending and the difference between the in-game currency and real-life money?

To be honest, as a gaming enthusiast, this took me far longer to write than I first thought. The video-game industry is a confusing beast. There are so many different games and industries within the video-game space. After a lot of research, here’s the conclusion. Video games are going to be around for a long time.

Movie theaters, television and the internet revolutionized their respective eras. Video games have slowly done a similar thing. On the surface, video games come across as just entertainment platforms that engage audiences to interact with them. Diving deeper, though, it has become an expansive and diverse community. Every generation has a place in this market.

This isn’t to say that there are no negatives attached to video games. The industry is still relatively new and it is a very dynamic industry, so there’s still room for error and correction. But it’s important that seeing all facets of the industry and community can ease people’s confusion and fears of it. Happy and safe gaming.

Mendy Garb is the COO of The Garb I.T. Consulting Group located in Herzliya, Israel. Shneur Garb is the founder of The Garb I.T. Consulting Group located in Teaneck.

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