It is common to think of computer game players as teenage boys playing violent games on their own in their bedroom. Surprisingly, children are not the main market of the computer games industry. The US Entertainment Software Association says that the average age of gamers is 29. 41% of regular PC gamers are over 35. There is now a large percentage of women gamers (39% of gamers in USA are female, 25% in Europe, 37% in Japan and 70% in Korea!) and more and more over-60s are becoming regular computer game players. There are now many nursing homes that have Nintendo Wiis for the older people to use.
However, the majority of computer games are designed for young men. This is generally because it is very expensive to develop computer games and the majority of new games lose money. The games development companies think it is less risky to stick to a safe formula rather than risk doing something innovative. Some games development companies are less traditional and costly. The game ‘World of Goo’ was produced by a team of two people who didn’t even have an office! They worked in cafes around of San Francisco, every day picking a different café.
World of Goo has a very cinematic style to it. Watch the trailer for World of Goo and analyse it using the skills you have learned elsewhere in this site. In particular, think about the use of colour, sound and shape. How does this trailer make you feel? Moving image techniques can be used to analyse many different computer games. Educator Tim Rylands has done a lot of work with Primary children using the game Myst to explore storytelling and narrative.
There are many connections between computer games and movies. Many games are produced based on popular movies, and there have also been several computer games made into films. Computer games like Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Star Wars recreate the plot of films and put you in the role of the hero. Tasks or levels that are successfully completed are followed by short recreated scenes from the film to reward and entertain the player. This motivates the player and gives them something to work towards. Ultimately though, profit is the main reason for developing film-based games. Even if the games themselves don't make much money they raise awareness of the film and lead to increased tickets and downloads.
There are more homes with large screen televisions and surround sound so computer games are even more engaging and make you feel part of the action. It is much more fun playing a shoot-em-up if you can hear the bad guys creeping up behind you (especially when the sound actually does come from behind you). The 3D graphics from modern consoles are also quite incredible when seen on a large screen.
The Nintendo Wii has changed the image of gaming. It is now more acceptable (and less sad) to have a games console and play games. It has made gaming more popular for a larger group of consumers (young and old). The Wii has a very intuitive interface, with a controller called a wiimote that you point at the screen. A sensor bar placed above or below the television emits infrared light that is sensed by the wiimote. The games produced for the Nintendo Wii tend to be more interesting and less traditional because of this intuitive control system.
Fortunately there are a number of people who are taking the use of games in the classroom seriously. Derek P Robertson who works at Learning & Teaching Scotland Lectures and visits classrooms across Scotland to demonstrate their potential.
The Wii balance board is another intuitive interface for the console. You stand on the flat surface and it senses which way your weight is shifting. This allows games like Wii Fit with exercise and balance games as well as fun games like Family Ski, where the balance board is used instead of a pair of skis or sideways as a snowboard.
Online gaming and virtual worlds
Online gaming is where you can get internet access using your computer or a console like a Playstation or Xbox. This lets you play computer games with (or against!) other people not physically in the same room as you. This may be a friend who lives down the road or a stranger from another country. This facility encourages people to play games for longer and is generally sold as an extra feature. Exploring an online world filled with real people rather than programmed computer character is far more exciting and unpredictable.
Online gaming on computers has a long history dating back to the very early days of the internet and before the World Wide Web. In the 1970s online gaming was in the form of MUDs (Multi User Dungeons), text based role-playing games on university-based networks. As networks became more user-friendly and accessible (thanks to the universities) games like Doom gained popularity.
The technology has expanded the possibilities in online gaming. Internet speeds are much faster and computers more powerful, which means you no longer have to go to specialized gaming internet cafes to play against other players but can use your own computer connection at home.
As internet technology developed and became available to homes, millions of people around the world were able to log into servers and play. From the mid-90s MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) had thousands of people logging in and playing simultaneously. The most popular in the West is World of Warcraft, which has over ten million subscribers (as many people as the population of Portugal).