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Tech Notes: Games and Life

The Reminder is making its archives back to 2003 available on our website. Please note that, due to technical limitations, archive articles are presented without the usual formatting.

The Reminder is making its archives back to 2003 available on our website. Please note that, due to technical limitations, archive articles are presented without the usual formatting.

Whether you like to spend your evenings hitting home runs, invading German controlled Normandy, or conquering the outer regions of the galaxy, there is a video game on the market for you. Gaming is a huge and booming business and the industry shows no sign of slowing in its growth. Beginning in 1999, and in every year since then, sales of video games have topped the sales of movie box office receipts. Games have moved from the realm of being something geeky teenage guys do in their basements after midnight, to a front and centre form of entertainment for the entire family. A perfect example of a company able to take advantage of this change is EA Sports. This company grew from a small start up employing a few people, to a massive producer of software which releases new versions of hockey, football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and Nascar games to coincide with the beginning of the real season in each sport. EA Games has worked hard to tie their games in with the real sports. Game players are able to choose a team, a line up, and play an entire season including the play offs. In a few years, the games will be even more closely tied in with reality. EA is predicting their games will have the power to access a database that outlines such things as player injuries and trades and update your video game based on what has really happened. Your star player gets injured in reality and he will disappear off of your virtual roster as well. Your young super star gets traded in reality and you will be missing him the next time you fire up your game. Gaming has been moved into the middle of the household through the growing sales of game consoles such as Xbox's and Play Station 2's. If sales continue at the same rate they have over the last few years, in less then five years time, these consoles will be in more homes than VCR's or DVD players. Expandable, reasonably priced, having superior graphics, and the ability to network with other players over the Internet, sales of these consoles have gone through the roof. One major reason for the growing popularity of all types of games is that companies have finally realized that teenage boys (or overgrown teenage boys) are not the only market. Games for adults and games for girls are the fastest growing segments of the market. While males still prefer games based on sports and violence, females are demanding games that are based on skill, teamwork, and most importantly, a story. As the power of computers increase and the graphics of games improve past the quality of animated movies, the story behind a game is vital. Most games take tens, if not hundreds of hours to conquer, so the quality of the characters, and the quality of the story is very important. No one is going to invest $75 and hundreds of hours of their time into a game filled with characters they don't care about. This is the reason for the success of games such as The Sims. This is the fastest selling and most popular computer game in history. In the Sims, you create a character and his or her entire life. You find your avatar a place to live, furnish it, make some friends, find a job, and create a social life. While sales were good for this game at the beginning, once it expanded into an online game, they exploded. Now people can come home from their real jobs, log onto their online game and be whoever they want to be. Slacker by day, heart-attack-ready-executive accountant by night. Or more likely, the exact opposite. Sales of expansion packs which allow your character to buy new types of furniture for their place, go on dates, or party their lives away are still hot items to buy even a year after they first went on sale. The Sims has turned into an online community with thousands of real people from around the world logging in to look after their characters and check into their lives. And this is the point. Games such as The Sims or Everquest are called Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMPOG), or pervasive worlds because they are always on, and there is always someone playing because the games are internationally based with community members drawn from all around the globe. Recent research has shown that games have filled the lives of today's children and teenagers to such a degree that they have truly changed how their brains process information. They have learned to process several sets of information at one time and are able to learn new skills quickly as they are needed; exactly the skills required to survive in the information economy.