time to game
It's probably not an accident that I think the best time to be a gamer is right now, two years after I finished school. Naturally I have the time and funds to afford this expensive hobby. Yet, it really seems like we're entering a new golden age of video games. Here's my take on why and how.
Right now, we're seeing a major influx of indie games thanks to over a decade of platform-building that has allowed people to easily access and create video games. There are also more platforms than ever before thanks to mobile software and even more powerful laptop and desktop computers. Games are no longer the purview of billion-dollar companies. This leads to a diversity of perspective within gaming and therefore a burgeoning culture of creative critique that increasingly ties in political views - a much needed shift that will ultimately welcome more people of more life experiences into the medium of gaming. (And that's as much as I'll say about Gamergate.)
The greater number of available platforms is also in part a cause of the ongoing globalization of "luxury technology" which is my shorthand for anything that doesn't directly improve a person's life in a rapid and measurable way. Gaming does have many benefits, but they are usually gradual and, according to the literature, still tricky to measure reliably. I compare this to a necessary technology such as automated water filtration: cleaner water with minimal additional human time investment is a rapid and measurable improvement to a person's life. That aside, gaming consoles previously existed only in North America and some of Europe, with rare exceptions here and there among the wealthy. Now, after decades of economic growth and the greatest migration to the middle class that we've seen in history, the end result is clear: more people have more financial stability that allows them to invest in luxury technologies.
More people around the world playing games means more participation in the gaming industry. Naturally, some of those people will want to do more than participate; they will want to shape the future of the gaming industry. Although many merely pursue the purely engineering and artistic aspect of this, some do pursue a career in video games with the explicit intention of introducing their own culture and life experience into the universe of gaming for others to participate in. Hence, the indie gaming industry has grown and we have seen this gradual diversification.
Gaming is also no longer seen as a geeky and time-wasting. It's widely accepted as a valid recreational pursuit, and increasingly used for health and psychological purposes. I noticed something interesting: although video game consoles, handhelds, and peripherals are at their very essence pieces of computing technology, people don't often call video games "technology." Computers and smartphones and TVs are readily called technological, but this somehow stops at video games. My theory, and probably someone already pointed this out, is that gaming is inherently fun, and most people understand that intention and seek other terms to ascribe to the physical objects and software. This subtly increases the accessibility of video games since many people are still unfortunately intimidated by conventional technology like their first touchscreen smartphone.
The third part is the internet. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone familiar with online gaming, but again, we have seen this burgeon in recent years with massive multiplayers that dive even deeper into the possibilities of simultaneous gaming environments: Halo, No Man's Sky, Eve Online, Destiny, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and on. Internet has existed in gaming almost since its inception, but only now with gigabit speeds and LTE cellular data networks are we seeing this take off in ways previously imagined by science fiction writers. The massive energy flow required to cast data in multiple directions and keep it constantly in sync at each endpoint is becoming feasible. I have no doubt that this will extend to virtual reality gaming in a few years once that industry has made a few footholds.
For me, I always try to be thankful that I have the luxury to afford gaming, and that I get such an amazing spread of options for what I want to experience. It's sad that I only have enough time to go between throwing balls of colourful yarn with Yoshi and strategically exploring vast alien terrains with a hand-picked team.