When the decade began, the video game business was already a multibillion-dollar giant. Over the last decade, video games’ cultural cache has expanded, and their earnings are now higher than those of movies, television, or music. The decade of the 2010s marked the transition of the pastime from semi-niche to popular.
The relationship between art and business in video games is not the same as it is in movies. There are fewer auteurs, but there are more venture capitalists. Over the last decade, several artists have broken away from the commercial side and created works of breathtaking beauty on par with any prestige television show.
The video gaming industry boomed as well, bringing in such huge sums of money that politicians began to ask concerns and examine legislation, notably with regard to games that included microtransactions, which some have equated to gambling. This decade, parents were more concerned about the time and money spent on never-ending live services like Fortnite and Star Wars: Battlefront II than they were about the violence in video games.
1. Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V by Rockstar is the most commercially successful entertainment product of all time. The open world crime simulator has raked in more money than Gone with the Wind or the Star Wars film trilogy, with a total revenue of $6 billion and increasing. The fifth chapter was the series’ pinnacle, combining open world lunacy with a complex tale. Grand Theft Auto’s cultural influence is difficult to define. It’s been the subject of many lawsuits, a focal point for parents concerned about violent video games, and the topic of made-for-TV dramatizations. Ryan Reynolds is starring in a high-budget action film inspired by, but not directly based on, its online multiplayer feature.
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PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds established the 1 vs. 100 battle royale shooter genre, but Fortnite made it an unavoidable cultural phenomenon. Fortnite began as a game about building modular bases. When Epic Games patched in the battle royale multiplayer mode (after the popularity of PUBG) and handed it out for free, people flocked to Fortnite in droves, particularly young players. Epic Games gained so much money in such a short period of time that it decided to build its own distribution channel. The game is so popular that it has created the careers of famous streamers such as Ninja while also scaring parents about the addictive nature of computer games.
3. League of Legends
League of Legends was published by Riot Games at the end of 2009, but the game that helped create the multiplayer online battle arena gaming genre would not become a worldwide hit for several years. It is now the gold standard in esports. League of Legends competitions fill stadiums worldwide and attract more spectators than the Super Bowl. Riot Games exemplified another element of gaming’s 2010s throughout the last decade: misogyny. Gaming was long seen to be a boy’s club, and that poisonous culture infiltrated the upper echelons of the industry’s major organizations, with Riot Games leaders being credibly accused of abuse by former workers.
4. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released in 2011 by Bethesda and has been at the top of the sales rankings ever since. The franchise’s flagship role-playing game has moved from one console generation to the next, been transferred to virtual reality, and has been updated for release on the Nintendo Switch. Skyrim’s ongoing appeal stems from its open-ended play style set in a massive and complex open environment. And it’s been aided by a committed community of modders who have shaped the game even more into a fantasy playground. Throughout the decade, other developers would strive for this goal, but few would succeed.
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Minecraft is another 2009 game that become a cultural icon in the 2010s. You’ve probably heard about Minecraft if you have children or know someone who does. Minecraft remains the most viewed game on YouTube ten years after its introduction, outnumbering Fortnite by more than 40 billion views. Minecraft inventor Notch announced in 2014 that he wanted to sell the game, and Microsoft stepped in to buy it for $2.5 billion. It is now the second best-selling game of all time, trailing only the Nintendo Wii’s pack in game Wii Sports. Minecraft is poised to extend its dominance into the next decade, thanks to frequent upgrades and the impending release of a new mobile augmented reality version.
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