Why Do Video Games Keep Growing?

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By: Ryan Cunningham

If there was going to be one motto for the past decade, it would be “out with the old, in with the new.” Netflix has almost entirely replaced physical movie renters, print newspapers are experiencing an all-time low in readership, and even popular radio broadcasts are steadily losing business to Pandora and Spotify. Across the board, the classic forms of entertainment and luxury are being replaced by their new counterparts–that is, except for video games.

Despite numerous technological advancements that should have sent video games the way of the dinosaurs and Cher’s original face, these bastions of merriment just keep pumping out hits and drawing in a bigger crowd than ever. In 2015, the Entertainment Software Association found that 155 million Americans play video games, and 44% of Americans do so for three or more hours every week.

What’s shocking about these numbers is that contemporary players aren’t just riding the wave of a fad. Video game studios are releasing retro-style products like Coffee Crisis to appeal to the classic, fundamental features that made games great. Instead of relying on new technology, the core features of video games have proven timeless and allowed for them to keep their integral values while adapting enough to stay relevant. Good luck finding another industry where using older styles makes the product more popular.

If almost every other industry is being swept away by new technologies, then why are video games the only ones that continue to thrive?

Relaxing

If you get home from work every day and are struck with an inescapable feeling of exhaustion, you aren’t alone. Modern workers are stressed out of their minds with the anxiety of paying bills and working long hours, and this kind of pressure can drain the life out of a person. Luckily, video games are a reliable and convenient way to get some of that juice back in your system.

Video games can help you chill out because, unlike your supervisor, they’re designed to keep you motivated. People work jobs all day long where they never get any recognition, and it can be nice to come home, relax, and be thanked by thousands of NPCs for saving them from impending doom. It’s more satisfying than filing a budget report, anyway.

Maybe that’s why video games have repeatedly been found to lower stress levels in players. When everyone is so wound up from grinding away at thankless and stressful jobs, video games can give them the satisfaction and enjoyment to keep them chugging alone. Sure, they might not be as “useful” as spending that time doing chores or putting in extra hours at the office, but since when did everything have to be useful? What ever happened to fun for the sake of it?

50 percent of Americans say they aren’t having enough fun, and there’s a reason for that. The culture has become so shifted toward working 24/7 that just relaxing has gotten a bad rap, but that shouldn’t be the case. There’s nothing wrong with taking some time for yourself, and most health experts agree that more relaxation could even increase your happiness and longevity. Video games are popular not only because you get to relax, but you get to do it by bashing in some zombie heads. Good luck beating that one, future technology!

Developing Creativity

According to recent research, Americans are creatively starved; while children are getting smarter with each passing generation, their creativity scores continue to decline. This trend may be disturbing, it isn’t that shocking. Children are exposed to more facts and knowledge than ever before thanks to the advent of the information age, but they’re also losing creative outlets left and right.

As arts and music programs in schools continue to be cut around the country, children are losing the few creative outlets that are left to them. While information is easier to attain than ever (did you know that Charles Strite invented the toaster?), Americans continue to lose opportunities to think analytically and learn to find alternative solutions to problems. And, God I’ve always wanted to say this, video games can save the day.

Even at a glance, this idea seems to make sense. There are plenty of puzzle games out there that force you to think non-linearly, so it isn’t that shocking that they could increase a child’s ability to think creative. According to a study conducted by Michigan State University, however, video games are increasing creativity across the board, regardless of genre. Even reading can’t boast those kinds of results!

American children are working harder than ever in schools and are having their creativity smothered. Video games are staying relevant because they’re still offering that creative outlet to children. It’s unfortunate but, until the authorities start to understand how vital creativity is, the youth of America will have to keep placing their faith in Arceus.

Building a Community

Despite what your grandpa tells you whenever he sees you pull out your Nintendo DS, video games aren’t actually tearing people apart. In fact, unless you’ve been vacationing at the bottom of the ocean, you’ve probably already heard about the most recent instance of a game bringing people together: Pokémon Go.

Yes, Pokémon Go has gotten people more active and it has led to unprecedented amounts of bonding within the Pokémon’s fan base. People have been getting active within their communities, chatting up strangers, and making real friends because of a free game on their phone. “But most games don’t make you leave the house,” the mysterious voice in my head is telling me, and that’s true. While most video games do tend to keep you seated on the couch, they still present plenty of opportunities to interact with other gamers.

Even before the advent of AR technology, video games have always been about bringing people together. Couch co-op is an art form that, while it has classic roots, is still being created today. While many critique video games for being distracting or isolating, I challenge anyone to find a better bonding tool than forming a Viking party with your friends and saving the world.

No matter how many video game magazines you subscribe to, there will always be amazing indie games that you’d never hear about without real life connections. Every longtime gamer has a group of friends that they can chat with to figure out what games are worth buying and to get the latest gossip in the industry, and that’s part of the fun of being a gamer. If everyone with an Xbox was a reclusive shut-in, there’d be no way to organize massive conventions like E3 or Gen Con. Video games have been bringing people together for decades, and that’s why they’ll continue to stand the test of time.

Fun Is Simple

You don’t need to be a “nerd” to enjoy video games. You don’t even need to have particularly impressive hand-eye coordination. All that you need is an hour or two of free time, a console, and the desire to enjoy yourself.

More often than not, life is complicated and frustrating. Sometimes you just need to relax, sit on the couch, and destroy some coffee-obsessed aliens with the power of heavy metal. In a world that is as fast-paced and draining as this one, there will always be a demand for games that let people relax and form connections with the people around them. Instead of dying with the release of new technologies, video games are adapting and becoming more popular than ever. And, on behalf of everyone who comes alive with the feeling of a controller in their hand, I say thank God.

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1 Comments

  1. Great post!
    I know that video games can have a bad reputation but as a psychology student I completely agree about what you said in terms of developing creativity and increasing productivity in schools!

    The Frugal Teen | http://thefrugalteen.wixsite.com/thefrugalteen

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