The Computer Game Industry, Market, and Culture

The Computer Game Industry, Market, and Culture

Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4534-9.ch002
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Games have become an important leisure activity for children and adults, and they are becoming an increasingly important part of our culture as a whole. This chapter gives readers an insight into the impact of computer games both culturally and economically. The chapter also considers the technical impact of computer games and how this might impact the gendered digital divide. For instance, it is often noted that playing computer games can be a gateway to computing careers due to increasing confidence and skills in computing as well as developing an interest in computers due to familiarity. Indeed, computer games and gaming might be an initial introduction for children to digital technologies generally. In turn, developing their confidence and skills in their usage of technology, leading to an increased utilisation and interest in a career in computer science and information technology. All issues are important when considering the gender divide in computer games.
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The computer games industry is the most established of all the sectors of the emergent new media landscape. (Dovey & Kennedy’s, 2006, p2)

Although the computer games industry forms part of the wider ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and SET (Science, Engineering and Technology) sector, and despite being a relatively new industry of approximately four decades, it is becoming an important and established industry within itself. As the opening quote by Dovey and Kennedy illustrates, it is an established industry in the new media landscape and its impact has only increased in recent years and continues to do so. The new media landscape includes digital technologies such as Web 2.0 applications, online dating, and mobile phone technologies. The computer games industry has become one of the biggest of the digital technology industries in both economic and cultural terms. The games industry is a multibillion-dollar business and its products have become a major part of the media landscape. Worldwide, it’s a $41.9 billion USD industry (Vancouver Film School, VFS, 2010). Games are a mainstream form of entertainment and there has been an explosive growth in the impact of games over the last decade. Indeed computer games have become one of the most popular leisure activities for children and adults in Western and Asian societies (Hartmann & Kilmmt, 2006). According to the Entertainment and Software Association (ESA) in 2012 72% of American households play computer games. To illustrate the increasing impact of computer games over recent years, the ESA (2011) reports that in1996 the American entertainment and software industry sold about $2.6 billion in sales revenue, in 2009 sales were £20 billion. According to Dove and Kennedy (2006):

Economic, technical and cultural impacts all need to be taken into consideration when trying to understand the forces which determine the production of mainstream console games. (Dovey & Kennedy, 2006, p43).

The purpose of this chapter is to highlight the pervasive impact of computer games in today’s society in order to enable the reader to comprehend the significance of the gender divide within both the production and consumption of games. In order to do this, this chapter is divided into a number of subsections looking at the cultural, economic and technical impact of computer games.

In order to understand the gender divide it is important to consider the history of the industry and how it has developed. Games are a growing part of Western and Asian cultures with a number of related activities including computer games magazines and Internet communities having emerged. Games are sneaking into all aspects of our lives including the workplace, with research suggesting that 61% of CEO’s and other senior executives say they take daily game breaks at work (Reinecke, 2009) again emphasising the popularity of games and their significance today. The popularity of computer games has also been increasing with advances in technology in particular the increasing use of mobile phones, especially smart phones. According to the ESA mobile phone games are viewed as an important contribution to game sales and there were 4.6 billion mobile phone subscribers worldwide in 2009, compared with one billion in 2002 (ESA, 2011b). From a psychological and social science perspective computer games have been linked to addiction, skill development, health promotion and learning as will be discussed in subsequent chapters of this book. Many have questioned whether this increasingly popular leisure activity is harmful or beneficial. In particular, do children (and adults) learn from spending hours playing computer games and if so, what do they learn? Chapter three will discuss the research around computer games and learning in more depth. However it is not just children that play computer games. Indeed the average age of an American game player in 2011 was 37 and the average age of a game buyer was 41 (ESA, 2011a). In 2012 the average age of an American game player was 30 and 35 was the average age of a game buyer so quite a big age reduction between the year which may be an indication that more younger gamers are emerging or that gamers stop gaming as they get older. It is suggested that games have a number of benefits. For instance family friendly games can bring families together and the increase in pro social games have highlighted a number of benefits to individuals and society. This chapter will look at family friendly and prosocial games as well as illustrate the significance of computer games through a look at their impact economically and culturally. But first a definition of computer games in the context of this book is required.

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