Don’t Lie, You’re a Gamer, Too

Gaming is big fun, big business, and consumes our lives (in a good way)

Illustration of a woman enthusiastically gaming

Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

Happy National Video Game Day! Not to be confused with National Video Games Day on September 12. You can be forgiven for missing the subtle, yet important difference between these two days. One has an “s” on “Game” and today’s exciting holiday does not.

Leaving aside my distaste for the ever-expanding number of “National [FILL IN THE BLANK] Days,” this one — today’s fake national holiday — is a pretty good one. Not because anyone celebrates in any demonstrable way, but it’s a good time to reflect on Game Culture, especially at this juncture as the majority of us game and the very foundation of gaming with physical games are being threatened by the emergence of a series of cloud-based gaming platforms.

Gaming at Home

Two gamers on a couch with smiles on their faces
Getty Images 

In my house, the family is celebrating the holiday as they as they do on all other days, by playing more games. As I trundled up to bed last night, my young adult daughter was erratically driving a car around the fake Grand Theft Auto landscape. Earlier that day, my adult son was playing on his Nintendo Switch and I was engaging in a round of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds on my phone. The only person in my house who does not game is my wife.

Over the years, I think I’ve seen her dabble in one or two casual mobile games (she was thrilled to find Google’s Fourth of July Baseball Game Doodle), but she’s never stuck with any of them. In a way, I think she considers her daily jaunts on Facebook as a kind of game, “How many posts can I like in an hour? Let’s see, my last record was 45. I can totally beat that.”

Gaming World

Average Gamers by Group
 ESA

Gaming, obviously, doesn’t need a holiday to help maintain its popularity. According to Statista, there are 2.2 billion gamers in the world. That’s 28% of the world’s population clicking controllers, tapping their phones, and generally ignoring the world around them.

I don’t think this trend will ever reverse itself. People don’t age out of gaming. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the median gaming age is 34, which is an interesting number when you look at my household. I’m a 55-year-old gamer and my oldest is 24. According to the ESA, 23% of gamers are over 36. Even on the younger end of the spectrum, there’s an entire generation of gamers that have grown up with modern consoles. The first Xbox was introduced 18 years ago. These gamers have known nothing but high-quality, multi-player gaming.

 A Safer Space

Gaming can also be a safe haven, of sorts, as compared to the minefield of the current social media landscape. Where Twitter and Facebook are polarizing, gaming is mostly immersive. You can lose yourself in a game, the more fantastic and mythical the better. Sure, things can get dicey in the gaming world, too. In the past, games have been hyper-sexualized and mostly from a male perspective. There’s also been the issue of toxic gaming communities. Still, as gaming demographics have shifted to almost half female — 45% according to the ESA — the representation and environment has improved too.

Aside from just escapist fun, games can also be educational. No, I don't mean “eat-your-spinach” educational games. I’m talking about the historically accurate ones like Assassin’s Creed. It’s not always spot-on (I mean, there’s was no memory-traveling Assassin traversing Colonial America’s rooftops) but the game is notable for its incredibly accurate depiction of clothing, social mores, and, especially, architecture. After the heartbreaking Notre Dame fire, many pointed out how the near-brick-perfect Notre Dame depicted in the game (and numerous gameplay walkthroughs) could be used to help rebuild the historical landmark.

Making Bank

eSports earnings from Statista
 Statista

Video gaming is also very big business. Twitch game streamers like Ninja, DrLupo, and AdmiralBahroo (I’m not making any of these names up), can make as much as $20 million a year through sponsorships. Pro gamers can make over $1 M per match in prize money. Wait. Why aren't I or either of my children pro-gamers? I’ll look into this and get back to you.

 The shift to the cloud, which will likely reduce the amount of local hardware necessary to run games like Assassin’s, could expand gaming’s reach even further. Platforms like Google’s Stadia and Microsoft’s Project xCloud will put more games on more screens. Soon everyone — maybe even my wife — will be gaming.

 If that happens, National Video Game Day (Not “Games” Day, no one cares about that one) might require an annual parade down New York's Fifth Ave. It’ll be a lot like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade but instead of just a few game-inspired floats and balloons, it’ll be uptown-to-downtown game characters. Instead of Broadway showstoppers, we’ll have mini Boss Battles in front of Macy’s.

I wonder if Al Roker is available.