Gaming Industries Digital Culture

Jamie Cleland

Table of Content

Introduction……………………………………………………………………. 1

Why is gaming so popular…………………………………………………….1

South Korea’s Gaming Culture……………………………………………….1

Control and Escapism………………………………………………………….1

Our Brains………………………………………………………………………..1

Indie Games……………………………………………………………………..1

               AAA companies………………………………………………………..1

               Digital Downloads…………………………………………………….1

               Crowdfunding………………………………………………………….1

               The Internet……………………………………………………………1

Conclusion……………………………………………………………………….1

References……………………………………………………………………….1

Introduction 

The gaming industry is a rapidly developing media industry and it is only getting bigger every year. In order to get a strong grasp on the gaming industry i conducted a lot of different types of research. I was looking for the culture and systems that are behind the gaming industry. I will be mainly be looking into newer forms of gaming trends and how they relate to previous examples. After conducting this research I have managed to improve my skills in evaluating my own work and making adjustments accordingly.

Why is gaming so popular ?

So why has the gaming industry become so big ? I would argue that one reason is that as humans it is in our nature to have an element of competitiveness. It has been the case for a very long time that we as a society love competitions.In the book ‘Competitions In the Ancient World’ it sums up this fact very well by saying ”Ancient peoples, like modern, spent much of their lives engaged in and thinking about competitions: both organised competitions with rules, audiences and winners, such as Olympic and gladiatorial games, and informal, indefinite, often violent, competition for fundamental goals such as power, wealth and honour.”. I think this can be linked to gaming in many ways. Computer games has these elements of violence but only virtually as well rules and winnings. The goal achieved from winning a computer game would be power but in a lesser form, which is the simple fact you are better than the other players. Gaming has aspects of all of these conditions of competitions.

South Korea’s Gaming Culture 

The audience also play a major factor in the competitiveness aspect of gaming. The competitive scene for gaming has become massive in the recent years, for example south korea Esports is a large national gaming event that is aired on mainstream TV. It takes place in big stadiums and is watched by the millions.These forms of competition is now starting to take place in  western culture. America has started to hold similar events and it  is slowly making its way into the mainstream. Competitive gaming is gaining popularity everyday and it will only get bigger. Perhaps later on down the line western culture will adopt this form of competitiveness and air it on mainstream television as well. 

Over 25 million people in South Korea play video games, which is roughly 50% of the population. This is a massive percentage of people who play computer games. Perhaps this is an indicator into the popularity of computer games. Here is an example from article called “Video games in South korea”, which sums up perfectly how gaming has become a massive part of South Korea’s culture. “The main reason is that video games are immensely popular there – more than anywhere else in the world. Video games have truly become a part of general culture of South Korea.”. This is a good article that goes into great depth about the gaming culture in South Korea. How ever it was published in 2007 and some of the statistics are abit off but it gives a very good general idea of South Korea’s culture. Looking at this article 9 years down the line, South Korea’s gaming culture has become even bigger and has no signs of slowing down in popularity.

One factor to think about within South Korea’s gaming culture is the celebrity status that professional gamers receive. Professional gamers are sought after at a young age by large companies, who see if they are talented and that there is a lot money to be made by creating these professional gaming teams. The large companies usually give the professional gamers a house that they can stay in as a team, giving them a best chance of practicing.

Gaming professional players can be compared to professional sport players, such as football players or basketball players. Because competitive gaming has become so popular in some instances professional gamers are getting payed m0re than athletes in South Korea. Here is a quote from the “Video Games in South Korea”article. “Lee Yun Yeol, 21, key player, signed a three year 600 million won contract. As a comparison, Korea’s professional baseball players earned an average 71 million won last year”. This shows the sheer magnitude that professional gamers hold in South Korea. Athletes and professional gamers have a lot of similarities including the celebrity status and income. In some ways i think professional gamers are the new embodiment of athletes and will shape how we look at athletes in the not so distant future. In a documentary about South Korea’s competitive gaming scene called “The Celebrity Millionaires of Competitive Gaming”an interviewer asked the professional players if they see themselves as “athletes”, which a large portion of them replied yes they do see themselves as athletes. I believe that these young athletes will be the future of mainstream competitiveness and that western culture will adopt these types of competitiveness in the not too distant future.

Control and Escapism 

Another aspect of why i believe gaming has become so popular is due to the fact that it reaches a new level of consumer control that hasn’t quite been met yet by other medias. This has two arguments in conjunction with this idea. The first one is the idea of escapism, which can be linked back to when people use to tell stories before books come of age. This is the idea that you have lost control over your life,so you search for sources of entertainment in order to immerse yourself and forget about your everyday hardships.

Although this is a very popular idea of why gaming is so popular,I personally think this can’t be related to a large portion of gamers. Some consumers of computer games just enjoy the idea of being immersed into another world without the factor of escapism and simply enjoy the experience for their source of entertainment.

Our Brains 

There also is a few other concepts on why the gaming industry has become so popular, which i will go over briefly. In our Brains we have a cell called neurons, which allows us to experience other people’s emotions. This can essentially make us feel like the character within the game and experience what the character experiences. This links back into the escapism idea, where you can really feel like you have accomplished something amazing virtually.

Continuing on the biological path, within our brains we have a chemical  known as dopamine. This sets off the feeling of excitement when we try to get some kind of reward. Could this be why we like computer games so much.? I believe this plays a massive role in gaming’s popularity. People also have a tendency to get addicted to these injections of dopamine that come from gaming, which could be a factor into why it is so popular.

Indie Games

A certain type of game has risen up in popularity over the last few years and that is indie games. Indie games are small games made by a small group of people or by an independent person, hence why the name indie.  So why has it become so popular.? Well i am going to be running through my own ideas on why it has gained such popularity recently. This drastic increase in the number of indie titles sold is because of how technology has changed and how as a society we have adapted to these technical changes.

AAA Companies

Before the technology was available for the easy production of computer games the market was dominated by large triple A companies. They would dictate what kind of games would be realised to the market and small time companies had little to no input into the matter. This was mainly due to the fact that many companies could afford the cost of sending their product across the world. Another large factor in this is that software and equipment was expensive and could only be obtained by those who could afford it. This changed over the last few years when these types of softwares and equipment became easily obtainable by the general public, making very easy for anyone with the right know how to create their own game. 

Because these large companies put a lot of money (some in the billions) into these games there was little room for error. This made their games very repetitive and the gaming industry didn’t have a great deal of diversity within it. They needed to ensure that the games would sell so large triple A companies didn’t want to take the risk.

As humans we have a tendency to not like large scale companies because of a number of reasons. A key reason why we hate big companies is how they seem to only be in it for the profits and have little to no interest in its customers. Large companies also push out small scale companies not giving any room for expansions in the same area. These factors can be linked into how indie developers has become popular recently.

We see the small indie developer as someone who is much more relatable than the big companies. They seem more human in other words. A lot of indie developers also make the games in their spare time as a hobby, so they are doing it as a passion rather than for pure profit. In comparison these large scale productions of these big companies can seem artificial and not human in any way. I believe that for these reasons indie games have rapidly expanded over the last few years.

Digital Downloads

There has been a revolution in how games and other media products such as films and music are distributed in recent years. This is known as digital downloads. So what is digital downloads ?. Digital downloads is a way of getting all sorts of products from the internet. This new way of distributing has heavily shaped the media industry in a huge way. Back before digital downloads producers would have to print millions of physical copies of whatever media product they wanted to sell. This would then be shipped or flown across the world to ensure that the consumer would receive the product. This is no longer the case, consumers can now simply download their desired product with a simple click of a button. Digital downloads completely cut out the process of making physical copies and transporting them to the masses. This not only reduces the cost for the companies who make these products but also makes it a lot easier for the consumer to get their chosen product.

Why does this affect indie game developers ?. Because indie developers are such smalls scale companies or even in some instances a singular person they could afford the process it would take to distribute their game. If an indie developer wanted to sell their game they would have to approach a publisher and hope that they liked their game. With this new era of digital downloads this whole process can be scrapped and they can simple put the game on the internet.

The idea of digital downloads has become so popular that some websites have become only digital downloads. A great example of this is Steam, which is a game and software site that only allows consumers to get their products digitally. Steam because of this only digital download style of selling has become a proving ground for indie games. There are currently over four thousand indie available for purchase on the Steam site. Over half of them arrived within the last two years, showing the sudden boom in popularity that surrounds indie games.

Crowdfunding

One reason why indie games have been able to lift off as much as they have is thanks to crowdfunding. crowdfunding has become an essential way that small companies are able to produce the products they do, creating a lot more diversity within the market, which in my opinion is great a thing if we as an industry want to expand into new and exciting things.

This fairly new source for funding has created a subculture as far as gaming goes anyway. As well as opening a new way for small companies to gain funding for their projects it also created a new way the consumer can play a large part of the development process. Using gaming as an example, during stages of development the developer would post content up they have created for the game in order to get feedback from the community of consumers itself. This has created a culture online that are very eager to become a part of all the stages of the product. This has shaped a new way in which games and other products are created, giving them a much more community driven feel.

The Internet

The internet plays a key part in how we communicate as a society these days and because of this it has vastly changed how advertising and promotion works. Before the internet there was a select few ways companies and people promoted themselves. This was done by word of mouth or by advertising in a new paper or posters. Although newspapers reached a substantial amount of people perhaps within in that country or city it was difficult to promote yourself nationally. This all drastically changed however when the internet was introduced to the public in 1991.

The internet made it possible for anyone with the right know how the ability to promote themselves. This can be achieved in a number of ways nowadays, such as creating a social media page on site like Facebook and Twitter or even by creating their own website. All of these possible ways of self promotion are completely free.

Conclusion

To summarize throughout my process of researching for this essay i was looking for ways to improve my own work. This can mainly be applied to my games or interactive development module. After conducting this research i made a number of changes in the development of my game for that module. This also includes the way i would promote myself for when i get into the working environment. I realised that while creating my game i didn’t consider in depth the possibilities of why consumers like computer games to the extent they do.

Because of this i never really added a sense of realism, which could improve the element of escapism and realism to my game. After realising this factor i decided to conduct more research into this area. I finally came across a paper called “Understanding Realism in Computer Games through Phenomenology” that helped me understand why there is realism in games and why it is important. Because of this i decided to add a story to my game to help players relate to the game more.

 References

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Mohr, A. (2012) ‘4 reasons why you love to hate big businesses’, in Available at: http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0412/4-reasons-why-you-love-to-hate-big-businesses.aspx (Accessed: 5 May 2016).

VICE (2015) The celebrity millionaires of competitive gaming (full length). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=of1k5AwiNxI (Accessed: 1 May 2016).

Nevena, V., Žarko, M. and Aleksandar, D. (2007) Video Games in South Korea. Available at: https://infoscience.epfl.ch/record/121416/files/asie_videogames.pdf (Accessed: 6 May 2016).

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Mozur, P. (2014) For South Korea, E-Sports Is National Pastime. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/20/technology/league-of-legends-south-korea-epicenter-esports.html?_r=0 (Accessed: 5 May 2016).

Fisher, N. (2010) Competition in the Ancient World. Edited by Hans Van Wees. 15 Rose Hill Swansea: I.B.TAURIS. In-line Citation: (Fisher, 2010)