How Gaming Has Helped Society

After the launch of GTA V, video games are now the highest grossing form of entertainment media, beating out both music and films. And it’s safe to say we have a lot to thank games for.

Now most people reading will likely appreciate games, but probably not as much as you should. And, if there are any ‘gaming sceptics’ reading, I hope I can dispel some of the archaic opinions on gaming and prove to you how much the medium has helped you. You don’t have to be a gamer to thank what the industry has done.

As much as some people would like to disagree, we are in an ‘age of gaming.’ The medium has exploded in recent years, pushing the other mediums to the back burner; GTA V alone outsold the entire music industry of 2013. I would place my life savings on the claim that everyone reading this has played a game at least once in their life, and that they remember it vividly. Mobile gaming especially makes gaming accessible for all. Angry Birds, Candy Crush, and Flappy Bird are household names, and whilst they are not ‘hardcore’ by most standards, they are, nonetheless games. No one person can deny the all-encompassing force that is video games, and that alone should prove its importance, but there is far more substantial things to thank.

One of the more recent examples is the Pluto Probe. Various gaming-news websites have been buzzing on the news that the Pluto Probe was powered by the same processor than brought us the PlayStation. The same system that gave us Spyro and Final Fantasy VII also brought us the breathtaking, beautiful images of Pluto. Sony brought us the technology to document the farthest reaches of our solar system 21 years before the expedition. The processor survived a nine year journey through cold, vast space; something which truly shows the power and capabilities of something most people dub “mere video games.”

PlutoStation
PlayStation “It only does everything”

Convinced…? What? You mean to tell me that gaming hardware being used to see the farthest reaches of our solar system isn’t good enough? Okay, maybe that example was a little too ‘far out’ for some people.

Whilst gaming may not have invented a lot of its most used concepts, we can certainly thank gaming companies for advancing these technologies. Things that once seemed like an unrealistic future are now present realities: voice recognition, virtual reality, gesture control, cloud storage, streaming, and mobile phones. Whilst most of these concepts cannot be considered ‘gaming inventions,’ it is gaming that ‘re-invented’ them.

Virtual Reality is the most notable in this regard. The first VR helmets and systems can be dated back to 1957, but I bet you didn’t know that? I bet you thought I was going to bring up the Oculus Rift or something along those lines, right? Well that is because gaming has re-invented these concepts and made them more streamlined, visually impressive and widely available.

oculus-rift-person
The first ‘Development Kit’ of the Oculus Rift

However, likely the most widespread and widely used piece of technology affected by gaming is the mobile phone. More specifically, smartphones. Now every smartphone owner around the world has access to a multimedia arcade right in their pocket, and the widespread appeal is obvious wherever you go. People on trains glued to their Alphabear, people in waiting rooms or even in the bathroom. It seems everywhere we go, we have the keys to a vast library of media at our fingertips and we have smartphones to thank for that.

But would we have such advancements in mobile technology without the influence of games? Sure, social networking on mobile is king, but gaming follows closely behind. Smartphones have adapted in such a way to encompass hardcore gamers and casual gamers alike. The mobile gaming market was worth $7.8 billion in 2012, and we have come in leaps and bounds since then. It was not long ago when $300 phones were selling for thousands of dollars simply because they had Flappy Bird installed; rare games are an expensive commodity.

mobile-gaming-phone

I can hear your cries already: “We get it Adam, gaming is everywhere. But you haven’t explained how this is helping us in anyway?” Well, allow me to explain.

I am an advocate of Virtual Reality, but not for gaming. Don’t get me wrong, after seeing Microsoft’s HoloLens demo at E3 2015 I’m excited to see what we can do with the technology. But I can’t help but feel it has better uses and this was most obvious in the story of a man able to attend his son’s birth from 4,000 miles away. How did he do this? With the use of the Samsung VR headset, which is powered by Oculus; the same people behind the gaming VR headset, the Oculus Rift. 

That is just one small example. Gaming technology has many more uses, such as in healthcare. There is charity that goes by the name of Special Effect, whose sole purpose is to create devices that give children with disabilities the power to play games. Special Effect aren’t the only organizations either. Child’s Play charity works to put smiles on the faces of sick children in hospitals, and those in domestic violence shelters. And shown proudly on their website, is the $34 million they have raised in 12 years.

Two amazing charities that owe their prosperity to both the versatility of games and the generosity of the best community in the world, the gaming community. The Nintendo Wii is famously used to both increase the well-being of psychiatric patients, and to help rehabilitate and improve motor skills on disabled patients. Why craft extra technology for this purpose, when we have it in front of us?

Disabled Gamer
Callum playing games after his spinal injury

And, finally, what about education? Everyone loves the children, right? Firstly, gaming presents a new career path, a new end goal. Anyone can study game development and even go on to obtain a degree in the field. Game development is no longer a niche market or just some guy in his basement. Companies are being formed all the time and game development is being taken seriously as a career. Not only that, but all of the jobs that come alongside games; games journalism for example.

There are real opportunities in the media field that focus solely on video games and tech. Not only do games present a new career path, but also new ways of teaching more traditional careers. Most notably the use of the popular title Minecraft in schools. Projects such as TeacherGaming and MinecraftEDU are real-life projects that promote the use of video games to teach curriculum. Mark Griffiths wrote a paper on the whole topic, and its worth a read here.

So, I suppose the title ‘how gaming has helped society’ is a little soft, it should be ‘how gaming saved society’ and that’s no overstatement. Gaming is getting bigger and its versatility is being recognized in more professional fields of work and study. Back in 2013, we got the great news that eSports are now recognised as actual sports, and the participants can apply for athlete visas to make the competitions more streamlined.

If you love gaming, like gaming, or hate it all together, it doesn’t even really matter matter, as gaming is slowly extending its sphere of influence. Those that choose to ignore its capabilities will be left in the shadows, whilst those who embrace it can join us in the light, and be part of the greatest community on earth. Thank you, video games. Thanks for everything.

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