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Damian Seeto

How Video Gaming can be more Accepted in Wider Society

Much can be said about the annual profits earned in the gaming industry. Despite the whole world being in a global recession the U.S sales of video games grew 19 percent in 2008 to a record $22 billion. However in terms of actual market penetration the industry still plays second fiddle to the likes of movies and music.

The main reasons for this are that in the past, there were not many games for the casual folk to enjoy. As we all know a lot more time, effort and coordination are needed to exploit all the fun provided in video games. Sadly, not all of us have the free time to play 100-plus hours of a Final Fantasy game and others might be overwhelmed with all the buttons presented in front of them. In direct contrast to this, a movie only requires the viewer to sit there and watch – likewise music only requires the use of your ears. Video games can be frustrating if you do not naturally have the hand-eye coordination needed to enjoy them.

It was not until the release of Singstar in 2004 did the modern casual crowd finally cast an eye towards video games on consoles. Karaoke has tortured the ears of many for a very long time but this was the first time the technology allowed for the game to rate your actual performance. So once and for all it told us whether all those wannabes could actually sing or not. Singstar has proven to be very popular with new iterations being added every few months and a whopping 175,000 Singstar microphones now occupying kiwi homes - plus millions more around the world.
Immediately following the release of Singstar is a franchise that is arguably more popular and prominent the world over-that franchise being Guitar Hero. The third game Legends of Rock catapulted the video game industry to new heights. According to Activision, the title is the first game in history to gross more than $1 billion in revenue. With more Guitar Hero titles on the way, and with the recent release of the popular Guitar Hero Metallica it looks as if more people will be rocking for many years to come.

Not all games are aimed for young people or males either. In the USA they have even installed Nintendo Wii’s inside retirement homes. It is used to keep them active without them doing anything too strenuous. Wii Sportsis apparently the most popular game among old folk – in particular, Tennis and Bowling offer many competitive matches across many retirements homes across America.

EA is just one of the many other publishers diving head first into the casual market. The Beatles: Rock Band is sure to be a hit, but they have also released titles like EA Active on the Wii, in competition to Nintendo’s own Wii Fit. We will have to wait and see if, like Wii Sports, these titles will find a home amongst a wider audience.

All of these titles work against the many negative stereotypes that are cast on some gamers. In many cases, they are still perceived as being fat, lazy and unsociable. Fox current affairs show The O’ Reilly Factor even did a story following the release of the Playstation 3 stating that it will encourage more people to become uneducated lonely slobs. We know this is far from the truth and there are a lot of examples that video gaming can actually be helpful, educational and fun with friends and family.

Nintendo’s DS has proven that with its Brain Training series selling millions of copies worldwide. There are many other such titles on the system – even electronic cook books that fit nicely inside the DS, instead of taking up shelf space. On a New Zealand front, Auckland University recently launched a trial of a 3D fantasy game that is supposed to help young people battle against depression. The game acts as a shooting game requiring the player to fire away negative thoughts and also learn how to manage moods. Youthline says the game is helpful to young people especially as they were involved in the development of the game and technology. Hopefully it will be a great tool to communicate to today’s techie teens.

It seems that video gaming is fast becoming a mainstream medium to now rival movies and music. No longer should it be labeled as expensive toys for kids or entertainment for males only. Recent trends show just how much the industry has changed and within time it can become the premier form of entertainment.

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