The online gaming world continues to develop with increasingly sophisticated design features and technical innovation. Virtual reality games are bound to feature more than ever as developers find exciting ways to exploit the technology. It is not easy to keep abreast of all the trends year on year, and 2017 was particularly noteworthy for a range of gaming related topics that made the news.
Video gaming is nothing if not competitive and online connectivity has involved probably way beyond the imagination of the original pioneers in the early days of gaming. Competition has always been ingrained in the gaming mindset, whether it was playing with friends at an arcade in those earlier days as concepts and games were being developed, or taking part in today’s multiplayer games; evolving technology has certainly brought radical advances in what players can do.
The rapid advance in internet technology now means there are very few games that don’t have online connectivity so that competitive multiplayer games can be played easily. In those early internet days, effectively the late 90s and early 2000s, game developers were already looking at ways they could develop online games and realized the importance of bringing gamers together in a virtual community that would benefit not only the players but also the game designers as.
Some gaming stats
You’ll be aware of how popular gaming is but do you know some of the stats around who is playing and what they’re playing?
Statista.com, surveyed a representative group of video gamers in relation to their age, discovering that:
- In 2017 29% were under 18
- 27% were between 18 and 35
- 19% were aged 36 to 49
- 26% were aged 50 years and over
If you consider that last statistic it is obvious that gamers who started playing some 20 years ago are still enthusiasts.
The survey also looked at gender in gaming, and as one might expect, 59% of gamers are male, and 41% are female. What’s particularly interesting, however, is that there are more women gamers over 18, 31%, than males under 18,17%. And there is also an even split with as many women aged over 35 playing video games as those under that age. Women are also catching up with men regarding buying video games, with 40% against 60% for men.
Changing the dynamic
If there is one thing that online connectivity has given gamers, it’s the ability to create communities that can have a say in how games are designed and how players can react to elements within games, either positively or negatively. There was a time – not that long ago – when you purchased a game, and that was effectively it. You played it, you groused about parts of it, but you had no input.
Now, these online communities can discuss games, complain about aspects of them and be vocal with their complaints, so that designers have to take notice. Designers have rigorously tested games when in development, right from the early days, but now there are so many savvy gamers who can bring their own experiences and knowledge to bear that game designers are not just listening to what they say but are also reacting. Gamers may not be coders, but they know what does and does not work well.
Take Destiny 2 as an example. Developer Bungie came under fire in particular for the way in which earning Bright Engrams XP worked. To obtain emotes, shaders, sparrows, ships and more, players had to ‘level up’ beyond level 20, otherwise they had to be purchased. Gamers discovered that Bungie was reducing XP gains for certain activities after exhaustive tests had been carried out to see if this was the case. It was, and gamers started to thread the information, which was picked up by larger gaming outlets.
Bungie, to their credit, explained what was happening and what they were going to do about it. They stated:
“Currently, XP will scale up when playing longer or fixed duration activities like Crucible competitive multiplayer matches and the Leviathan Raid, and XP will scale down when playing activities that can be quickly and repeatedly chained, like grinding Public Events. We are not happy with the results, and we’ve heard the same from the community. Effective immediately, we are deactivating this system.”
Whether Bungie would have dealt with this without the gamer outcry is not known, but it does go to show that when a social community bands together and believes there to be something about a game that does not sit right, it has a powerful and influential voice. Designers do take heed of what’s happening within their communities, and in the long term, they don’t want to kill the goose that lays their golden egg.
The rise of online casinos
With the explosion of games with online connectivity, you might think that it’s mainly about massive roleplaying games, but there is much more going on in the online world. Back in the day if you wanted to have a gamble, you’d go to a casino to play slots or card games and, of course, that’s still a hugely popular activity. But when online gaming proved itself to be a financially viable model there was a huge growth in the provision of online casinos.
Obviously, they are there to make money but they also give people an enormous range of entertaining games to play, and by using high-quality graphics and large server spaces, they attract many millions of players. The ease of access often makes people ask why to play at live casino when you have everything at your fingertips for an immersive gambling experience.
You’ll never be far from controversy in the gaming world, and in 2017 there was plenty to be going on with.
Loot boxes remain a controversial feature of gaming in many different games, and themes such as violence against women and domestic violence scenes have polarized opinions. Other issues that irritated gamers, and always have, were development problems, spoilers and pay-to-win.
Things will change as they always do, but gaming communities now have a lot of power and, in general, seek to use that to improve the quality of the gaming experience. Designers will continue to be imaginative but if they ignore their player base too often they could find that outrage turns to boycott. And the bottom line is always the prime motivator.
The main points
- Online connectivity has transformed the gaming experience for players.
- Competitive multiplayer games can be played on a range of devices.
- Players come from all age groups in society.
- 59% of gamers are male, and 41% are female.
- There are more women gamers over 18, 31%, than males under 18,17%.
- Video game buyers – women 40%, against men 60%.
- Online communities can now discuss games, complain about some aspects and voice opinions. That forces game designers to take notice.
- Online gaming was proven a financially viable model and consequently there has been a huge growth in the provision of online casinos.
- Loot boxes have been somewhat controversial.
- Themes of violence against women and domestic violence polarized opinions.
- Spoilers in game reviews irritate buyers.
- Pay-to-win is generally unpopular with serious gamers.