Millennial Think Tank: The State of Gaming

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This week we tackled the much talked about Gaming Industry to assess both its present and future. We mixed up our panel a bit this week with:

  • Susan Silver, Social Media Business Analyst, spends 12 hours a week gaming
  • Barry Figgins, Entrepreneur, spends 5 – 10 hours per week gaming
  • Jacqui McKinney, self described web ninja, spends 3 – 8 hours per day gaming
  • Joe Cardillo, Project Manager/Content Strategist, spends a few hours a week gaming
  • Ryan Pannell,  Hedge Fund Manager, spends about 4 hours a week gaming (far less than times past)
  • Kelly Mosfigian, minimum wage slave, spends 40 – 50 hours per week gaming

You can watch and listen to the hangout in it’s entirety, or read on for the recap.

To frame the discussion, we began with some facts about gaming:

  • Last year Kickstarter’s #1 business sector raising money was Games at $50 million.
  • We spend 3 billion hours a week on this planet gaming.
  • According to author Jane McGonigal, more than half a billion people play computer and video games for at least an hour each day, and about 183 million of those gamers live in the U.S.
  • Nearly 100 percent of boys and 94 percent of girls under the age of 18 regularly play video games.
  • People age 36 and up represent 36 percent of the gaming population, its largest segment

Who is a Gamer?

Kelly described a gamer in very simple terms: anyone who plays any games. Jacqui agreed, saying that everyone is a gamer at some point, and used childhood role playing as an example.  Barry stepped in saying that he thought it meant something different, perhaps not broadly fitting such a wide audience; to him a gamer is far more into the games, news about games, the industry etc.

Ryan saw a Gamer as someone who was competent in playing console games, played online, possibly in competitions. Candy Crush players are not gamers to Ryan. Susan thinks that if you’re outside of the culture you see a division and hierarchy within the hobby, that you may not agree with if you’re in the hobby.

Jacqui told a story of describing herself as a ‘casual’ gamer at a convention, shocking other attendees. After they grilled her they labeled her a ‘popular gamer,’ which ranks above a casual.

It became more clear to me as I paid attention to our panel’s conversation in the chat window when Kelly posted the label “filthy casuals,” and then “newbs” as examples of the hierarchy with gaming. Neither are very well liked by most people who have been playing for years, but a lot of that depends upon their behavior as they enter the hobby. Kelly used World of Warcraft’s decline in ‘funness’ as an example of how new players can diminish the game’s experience. As gaming corporations seek to make the audience (and their customer base) much broader, the games are being made easier to accommodate new people, meaning that the long time players had to work harder for what they earned as they came up.

Joe talked about Newbs in a different context; if a newb is new and admits it, people often mentor. However, there is also hazing involved where existing members haze newbs.

My thoughts were that this kind of hierarchy and division within the gaming community is what you find in every community of human beings.

 

Kelly wanted to highlight that casual games, like Trivia Crack, are not highly competitive in that money is not at stake, and often don’t include real life communities of people playing together. They are however, addictive, and work on basic gaming theory, which we decided we needed to address at length in a different hangout because there is so much to discuss.

Did you always game?

Ryan was an early gamer, playing Double Dragon, Streetfighter, and Mario brothers, remembering arcades and feeding quarters into a machine as crowds of people pressed in from the back to watch and wait for their turn. He remembers staying up far into the morning on a school night trying to beat a game when you couldn’t ‘save’ your position. He thinks that his early gaming life limited his outlook on games; he sticks within a narrow bandwith of games instead of playing a wide range of games.

Barry grew up with the NES in a remote corner of Arizona without many friends near by; when he got his first console that he paid for himself he played Sonic the Hedgehog obsessively. At school there was definitely a playground brotherhood of gamers, and the kids who didn’t play couldn’t talk about it at all. Although he has built a career around gaming, Barry described his “lifelong project to get his parents to show any respect for games.”

For Jacqui, gaming was a source of conflict in her house, even though her father was an early adopter of technology. She remembers wearing out the A button on her game boy playing Tetrus. She was always being dragged to her father’s work, and gaming because her solace.

Susan had a very positive experience growing up gaming, as it was a family bonding experience including her mother and brother.

Joe was home schooled until high school, so gaming helped him understand some social dynamics that he just didn’t get at home.

Kelly gamed as early as preschool, and spent a lot of time on pc gaming.

When did Gaming become mainstream?

Barry believes the emergence of Mafia Wars and Farmville is when gaming’s audience exploded. Facebook’s emergence obviously had a huge impact on gaming, as it made games accessible as just another layer on top of social media. Barry pointed out that pre-Facebook, in order to game you had to learn a separate device (the console), which was far more intimidating. Now games showed up on the platform you were comfortable with and using daily; it wasn’t a far stretch to start gaming.

Kelly quickly pinpointed the release of Halo as the beginning of wide acceptance of gaming. He described the huge contingent of military people who got into gaming; military members are looked up to, and all of a sudden the ‘nerds’ who had played this game for so long could compete with the military players. He nailed it with this quote:

Gaming went from being something nerdy people do in their grandmother’s basement, who never see the light of day, to something that successful and cool people are also doing.

When I asked if gaming made nerds cool, Kelly had even greater insight. He believes the ‘nerd culture’ is pushed forward by corporate America and the media because there is money to be made. He believes that some very smart people in corporations like Sony realized that they could make a ton of money; so they went and promoted things that are also part of nerd culture, like the Spiderman franchise. They began connecting their corporations to all things ‘nerd related,’ so that they could sell more games and entertainment to those who associated with the nerd community.

What do you think of corporate gaming cultures?

Ryan could care less about the brand that makes his games – he cares about the game and his experience with it. However, he said, hardcore gamers hate certain companies, and told the story of their hatred for “CliffyB,” the chief designer for gears of war. For many, passions run high around both designers and brands within gaming.

Susan reinforced the idea  fanboy/fangirl culture, talking about Blizzard having its own convention because it has so many loyal fans.

Kelly told us that Ubysoft, and EAGames were both named as the most hated brands; he told us that EA was named the worst company in the world because it actively buys up small companies and guts them, taking just the games. Yet, with all of this hatred, people keep buying from them.

I had to reference the fact that Millennials continue to say that they care about brand ethics, and many talk about how unique that makes them, yet Kelly spent a good 5 minutes outlining some of the horrible practices of gaming companies, yet those companies still make a ton of money because people keep buying from them, including millions of Millennials.

Ryan talked about the fact that it is the sole job of every company’s board to increase their profit. When I told him that what people think of a company affect whether buy a product, he countered with the fact that there is always another customer ready to take your place.

What is the future of Gaming?

Susan sees gaming continuing to grow, describing how her young nephew and her mother playing regularly. She thinks we’re moving toward AR (Artificial Reality) gaming. Joe agrees and sees gaming augmenting real life experiences in the same way technology does.

Barry spoke of his habit of using technology while watching TV being similar to gaming as part of life. Kelly’s father’s company is implementing game theory in the marketing strategies, and he sees its impact on society as growing to an even greater extent. We spoke of Mobile loyalty uses gaming to get greater brand loyalty, which brought us back to the addictive nature of gaming. It is such an in depth topic we have decided to revisit the topic and Gaming Theory & Addiction, and its impact on our culture next Thursday when we return.

Insights

  • The gaming industry is massive, and will only continue to grow. The days of a small segment of society and the camaraderie of gamers is shifting fast. Almost ALL of us are gamers.
  • Marketers and corporations will ramp up their use of gaming theory to meld it with loyalty programs.
  • Gaming, like technology as a whole, will continue to blend with the rest of our offline and online lives, diluting the line between the two.
  • GenX, the oft ignored generation, is still the dominant gamer demographic. If marketers are trying to reach this demo, they need to pay close attention to gaming theory.

Photo credit: IMG_0858 via photopin (license).

VP of Content & Strategy at ArCompany. She has an extensive background in Sales, and focuses on generational marketing and content. With Hessie Jones she founded ArCompany’s Millnnnial, GenX and Boomer Think Tanks and writes and speaks on those topics from an insights/strategy perspective.

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