There is talk of transformation, of change; exchange tax. But it’s not like that. The effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 has not generated new ways to shop, socialize or entertain, it has accelerated the development and adoption of trends that we could already perceive in society.
You buy more online because now it is little less than an obligation, but we already did it, and it was for many the preferred way of doing it. We also watched series on streaming platforms or played video games. Our war against the virus has made that, almost by necessity, the social transformation that we were experiencing little by little has been completed in a matter of weeks or months, not years.
The war we fight has mortally wounded the industries of the 20th century and propelled those of the 21st century. Because every war drives changes in society, for better and for worse.
Video games to another level
The video game industry, which has been the world’s largest entertainment industry for years above music and cinema, has acquired a leading role in this 2020. Analysts expect revenue from video game production and distribution to grow 20% compared to 2019 to $ 175 billion. “Encouraging the population to stay at home and limiting their social interaction has made people turn to video games in droves,” says Newzoo, the market analysis firm specializing in the video game industry.
It is estimated that sales will continue to increase and that when we win the war against the virus, growth will continue. Because COVID has not forced us to play, has made us want to do it more. Nor has it radically transformed either the market or consumer patterns. The trends that were beginning to be detected or intuited for years have accelerated. The most relevant: video games are a way of socializing. According to Newzoo, playing with others is the second most important reason to play games during the pandemic.
Not just playing is the thing
Socializing is the star trend in video games for the last decade. It is confirmed with the rise of Twitch or the clear relevance of multiplayer video games in real time. You can’t go to a bar and have a few drinks or have a soccer game with your friends, but you can talk on Discord and have a good time playing a few games.
As in any other activity, you reach a higher level of enjoyment when done with people who share your interests and offer you good times. That is why games like Fall Guys or Among Us have been so popular * during the quarantine: they offer an ideal environment for anyone to play and have a good time with family or friends.
They propose the same as titles like League of Legends or Counter-Strike, but in a more casual, direct and easy to understand and enjoy way. That the commotion generated by the launch of a new console is comparable to that of a new iPhone or that thousands of people can connect live with top-level footballers such as Kun Agüero while broadcasting how he plays, make it clear that video games are not just one way fleeting entertainment or a temporary escape are part of our lives, conversations and thoughts.
The fight against COVID-19 has only made it more patent
We are social beings, and we continue socializing as always. It just changes the way we do it. The facilities offered by the internet, and the times of war against the spread of the virus have accelerated our adoption and normalization of playing video games as one more way to have a good time or connect with the people we care about.
However, we should see with caution and some suspicion how what we now do out of imperative necessity can gradually become the main way of maintaining contact with others.
Playing offers more and more freedomCarefully devised challenges for consistent positive reinforcement, consistent doses of dopamine, and a clear social component that makes you tune out and have fun.
Within a game, it doesn’t matter what is behind your life. The conditions of your environment, social status or economic position are relegated to the background. You are not judged on your appearance, clothing, or the phone you use. In addition, the freedom that video games give you hooks because it lacks direct consequences in your daily life. If you make a mistake in a video game you know that there is one more life, that you can start a new game or that you can change the game. Not in real life. And if we compare living with playing, living can be scary.
In the game you control your character with some cards to play that are the same for everyone, but in your life you control only yourself with the cards that have been given to you, and that of course are not the same as those of the others.
the singing of the Sirens
Videogames dazzle the player for that: it is socializing, it is having fun, it is living without all the bad things that life sometimes has. Within video games, you decide who to talk to and who to play with, whenever you want, from the comfort of your living room or bedroom. It is normal that we like to play more and more, play with others, with people who share our hobbies or sense of humor.
Is there a big difference between a group of friends who meet for a drink and one who plays a game on a Saturday night? The problem exists when video games are used as a refuge, because it is infinitely easier to face problems and be yourself inside them than outside of them. Video games offer fun, direct social experiences and manage to make the problems, regrets and challenges embedded in the player’s minds vanish because now the player is immersed in another world. The consequences within the video game are much more attractive than the consequences that living offers, and making mistakes and erring constantly.
When we are victorious, and defeat COVID-19, we will have to ask ourselves if we play because we want to, because there is no better plan or because, without realizing it, we have made playing video games our main way of socializing. Because we fear the challenges, consequences and difficulties of doing it in real life, the one that we have been forced to live, of which we only have one credit.
The article The virus made video games stop being a game was published in Hypertext.