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Video Games: More Than Just Entertainment

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

The gaming industry has grown exponentially, and its impact on the economy, culture, and society cannot be ignored. Video games have come a long way since their inception in the 1950s. What began as a simple experiment has now become a multi-billion-dollar industry, with millions of people playing games on consoles, computers, and mobile devices.


A graphic on famous personalities in the video game industry

Illustration by Team Geostrata


Today, they are not just a form of entertainment, but also a tool for social commentary, activism, and education. Video games have the power to engage players on a deep level, providing a unique medium for exploring complex issues and promoting social change. As a result, the gaming industry has now become one of the most significant contributors to the creative economy globally.


Furthermore, the video game industry has generated significant revenue in recent years, with the global gaming market projected to be worth over $256 billion by 2025.

This growth has been driven by the increasing popularity of mobile gaming and the rise of e-sports, which have led to new business models and revenue streams for the industry. It has also created numerous job opportunities, including game designers, programmers, artists, and marketers.


Video games can provide a platform for social commentary, activism, and education by allowing developers to explore and critique real-world issues in a way that is both engaging and impactful. For example, games like “Papers, Please” and “This War of Mine” explore themes of immigration and war, respectively, offering players a glimpse into the harsh realities of these issues. By immersing players in these scenarios, these games encourage players to think deeply about the issues at hand and reflect on their own attitudes and beliefs.


Similarly, video games can also be used as a tool for activism, allowing developers to raise awareness and encourage action on important social issues. Games like “Spent” and “Whisper of a Rose” simulate the experiences of people living in poverty or facing the issue of bullying, respectively, encouraging players to empathize with these individuals and take action to address these issues in the real world.


Finally, video games can also be used as a tool for education, offering a unique medium for teaching complex concepts and encouraging critical thinking.

Games like “Minecraft” and “Kerbal Space Program” offer players the opportunity to experiment and explore complex systems, encouraging players to think creatively and critically about scientific concepts and engineering principles.


In addition to all these, Video game adaptations have become a popular form of entertainment as well, with movies and TV shows like "The Witcher" and "Assassin's Creed" being based on popular video game franchises. It has also inspired other forms of creative expression, including music and art.


While video games have the potential to be a powerful tool for social change, they also face a number of challenges such as the issue of representation and diversity as the the industry has traditionally been dominated by male developers, leading to a lack of diversity in both the stories being told and the perspectives being represented.


In Addition, it has been criticized for its lack of representation of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals. Additionally, the industry is often criticized for perpetuating harmful stereotypes and reinforcing negative attitudes towards marginalized groups along with online harassment, toxic behavior and hate speech - discouraging engagement, concerns about the addictive nature of video games and their effect on mental health.


To address these challenges, the industry needs to focus on the following:


  • Increasing diversity and representation, both in terms of the developers creating the games and the characters and stories being represented. This can be done by providing scholarships, mentorship, networking opportunities and other financial assistance to women and minority students who want to study game development.


  • The industry also needs to create more robust reporting systems for online harassment and abuse, and work with social media companies to crack down on toxic behavior and hate speech. Social media companies have a responsibility to remove content that is harmful or hateful. They should work with game companies to identify and remove this content from their platforms.


  • In addition, the industry needs to create more responsible marketing practices for video games. This includes avoiding making claims that video games can improve academic or athletic performance, or that they can cure mental health problems.


  • Finally, the industry needs to be mindful of the potential impact that video games can have on players, and take steps to ensure that games are not perpetuating harmful stereotypes or attitudes. Governments can also play a role by regulating the industry and promoting policies that promote diversity and inclusion. Public Private Partnership (PPP) can be a good template in this regard.

CONCLUSION


Therefore, the video game industry has the potential to be a powerful tool for social change, providing a unique medium for exploring complex issues and promoting critical thinking.

It has generated significant revenue, created numerous job opportunities, and had a profound impact on society and culture promoting empathy and understanding and creating a just place for everyone.

 

SAIMAA KHAN

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