Published On: Tue, Aug 4th, 2020

How Video Games are Influencing the Entertainment Industry

Gaming culture has come a long way since the 1980s. Back then, it was mostly children and adolescents playing the likes of Pac-Man and Super Mario in arcades or on primitive home consoles. In the intervening years, the video game market has matured, diversified and improved in quality to an extent that leaves it unrecognisable from those early days.

Titles started targeting more mature audiences, and by 2009 the average age of a gamer was 35. At the same time, the industry has become incredibly lucrative. The Call of Duty franchise has made more than the entire film revenue of all the James Bond and Harry Potter movies combined. As developers produced content for older users the phenomenon of in-game advertising, featuring adult themes such as brand new online casinos, also started to rival more traditional marketing channels. 

TV and movies 

One of the clearest examples of the effect of video games on entertainment is in TV and movies. To start with, games were often derived from other source material such as popular movies, TV and even books. While this is still the case – witness games based on Star Wars, Harry Potter and South Park, to name a few – there has also been a significant influence in the other direction.

Starting back in the 1980s, several TV shows for kids were developed to promote the video games of the day. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! was an early example, followed by the massively popular Pokémon the following decade. This branched into other media as well.

Several popular movie series have their roots in popular video games. The most successful of these has been Tomb Raider, originally starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft and recently rebooted with a new cast. Final Fantasy, Assassin’s Creed, Resident Evil and many others have received the big screen treatment. Two recent animated movies, Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog, were well-received and sequels are in the works. 

Gaming culture

Beyond the influence on mainstream culture, gaming has developed to a point where it is an important genre of entertainment in its own right. Games designers have kept pace with technological developments to create ambitious, inventive and immersive titles. As more people gained access to high speed internet connections, so online multiplayer games hit the mainstream.

At the same time, the phenomenon of ‘Let’s Play’ started to gain popularity through video sharing and streaming websites. Watching other people play video games may have started because players were looking for tips, but it has grown into a form of entertainment in its own right. Popular channels are watched by millions – and can make millions in revenue.

Esports

As online multiplayer games became better and more accessible, video games became a spectacle. Players found that they had a following, and that people would watch them play live as they would a sports match. Although competitions organised by gaming companies go back as far as the 1990s, today’s interest in esports has been largely fan-driven. 

Competitive video gaming as an entertainment event and spectator sport is now estimated to be worth more than $1 billion annually, with revenue increasing every year. Gamers are now organised into leagues with high-profile sponsors, and take part in multiple live tournaments across the globe. Mainstream sports broadcasters like ESPN have picked up on the sector’s potential, and promote and screen events via their more traditional channels.

Esports may not have quite made it into everyday parlance, but it can’t be far off. During the widespread cancellation of traditional sports during 2020, many viewers turned to virtual versions as a substitute. Although we can expect regular sports fans to return to their live games, many more people will now be aware of esports. 

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