“Who Are Ya?!!” – what will be the demographics of “Gamers” looking into the future? – A Thought Avalanche

A work/thought in progress…

If we consider the current demographics (and here I’ll be making somewhat un-PC, sweeping-generalisations regarding [sub]cultural-stereotypes, so I apologise in advance) making applications to games design courses it could be argued that there has been a significant shift in the “types” that are applying.

This new crop play games and are, it seems, competitive on the sports field too, what Concodia University’s communications professor, Mia Consalvo, would call “Sports Gamers”. They are runners, footballers, rugby players, some actual, not just virtual, martial artists. Strangely in fact, this same crop that put their faith in labels and trainer brands (probably due to the inherent group affiliation/validation that comes with fashion as it does with sports fandom) are blowing the Frak out of each other in the latest (because that’s obviously the best) iteration of COD, and of course occasionally throwing their controllers at the TV whilst playing the latest FIFA.

I believe the term has come to be: “BroGamer“.

Perhaps if some of these same academic courses in Games Design had existed in the “heyday” of that first round of video games launches a decade or so ago (lets face it, many of these courses didn’t), some of these applications might have been from what society often deems as fringe personalities, i.e. the demographic reflecting those students who had found solace in virtual environments rather than the competitive environment of the playground, fashion and most definitely the sports field (see popular TV show characters from Big Bang for an empathic and well-observed stereotype).

But, that was then, and they would/could be the parents of this generation perhaps.

So, what does this say about the place of Games in the wider Social Order of things.

Gamers Versus Sports fans

Trust me when I say the chart above is just for discussion, and is based on no statistical data. It’s a very subjective viewpoint of a person who has found themselves firmly in that medium blue vector – it also makes no attempt at gender differentiation as that overlay would be way too complex and to be honest, I just wouldn’t be that presumptuous.

So, if the “Jocks” are playing video games now (and being specifically targeted by those market forces that decide “it gets made, because it’s what sells”), what are the “geeks” doing? And though there are undoubtedly “geeky” kids (which ideology addled teenager isn’t) still joining our games course, what about the “real geeks”… what about the kids who weren’t cool enough to play these games well enough to be considered a regular geek, even before the BroGamers turned up?

And what does all this mean for this still developing marketplace?

The balance of games developed for fans of competitive score/achievement based gaming and those that think games are “not for them” is a strange one right now.

That Games, with their potentially hyper-immersive qualities should dominate the entertainment media market and the psyche of a contemporary audience is a given, yet they don’t.

They seem to fall short of full societal acceptance. Whether that is because they have been successfully “commoditised”, and the producers wish to maintain the status quo of a lucrative marketplace, or that they have been, much like comics (and yes, Graphic Novels too) before them, demonised in the public eye as sole destroyer of family values trying to wheedle its way into our homes; the market seems somehow “ghettoised”, and perhaps (again like comics) mostly from within.

If market-focused developers and the current Gamer demographic could be brought to see the potential in expanding to exploit real variety in the medium (some are), and not just a reworking of an existing first person/rpg/shoot ’em up, but this time with (gasp!) a girl protagonist*; instead the creation of artifacts that aren’t even games in the eyes of current “Hardcore Gamers”.

Only then will we see real diversity and the uptake by wider audiences (i.e. everyone who doesn’t play games right now), and the dominance of the medium in the home and the accepted social order.

I for one aren’t that interested in Games that are simply Graphically Enhanced, yet “experientially” removed, versions of Paintballing or Go-Carting… I’d rather do the actual things.

I want to play games that aren’t necessarily about “enjoyment” or “fun”, but games that challenge me, like a difficult film (Schindler’s List, popular, yet not “fun”) or a book (One Hundred Years of Solitude, devastating in its beauty and at times desolation, stunning, but not “fun”). I want my games choice to have as wide a subject reservoir or genre pool as my bookshelves, or even my comic book collection (Heartbreak Soup, Logicomix etc.)

Then, and only then can we can begin the true journey into the “other”, the home as entertainment centre and jump off point for exploration of vivid, persistent virtual worlds as seen in the novels of Tad Williams.

All to the cries of “Your goin’ home in a bloomin’ ambience”

*Most of which are just passively interactive extensions of Battle, 2000AD, and other pulp/low-brow (in the eyes of the critics), genre fiction. Definitely a path already trod by comics.

References:

A. Stein, M. Consalvo, K. Mitgutsch. Who are sports gamers? A large scale study of sports video game players. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 2012; DOI: 10.1177/1354856512459840

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~ by hesir on February 21, 2013.

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