Unless you've been living under a rock for the last 10 years or so, video games have become BIG business around the world.
Consider this. Call Of Duty MW3, last year's best selling game, earned $3 billion dollars in sales in it's first week. Three Billion, and in seven days no less. The biggest movie of the year (The Avengers, fyi) took almost a month to collect that amount, and at cheaper prices then $59.99 for a new game. In fact, according to a study conducted in the UK, as of 2008 the average new video game was outselling the average Hollywood movie.
It's also not just the big budget, big name games either. Indie developers, perhaps the most creative artists around these days, are seeing a massive boom in sales. Services like Steam Greenlight, and social media have made awareness of these little known gems much more open to the general public.
But raw dollars don't tell the whole story. The quality of games, from technology, to playability, to story telling, to voice acting has in so many ways far surpassed that of the constant drivel being turned out by Hollywood and TV land. I can count on one hand the number of movies that have emotionally moved me in the last ten years. I could probably write another two or three paragraphs with the games that have moved me in the last decade.
Having said all this, what makes a gamer these days? According to the figures, The average gamer these days is 25-35, middle class and employed in a good job. Would it surprise readers to know that 42% of gamers today are women? And that there are, in fact, more women between the ages of 25-35 playing games then boys under 17? See for yourself.
The general thinking of the public was that games were confined to children, with the few adults who play them being overweight shut-ins with no social or career prospects. Anyone who even remotely follows entertainment trends should know that this illusion has been shattered. In my opinion, games right now are the only form of art able to truly bridge people from all over the world and all walks of life. I personally know Teachers, Cops, Firefighters, Soldiers, Businessmen, Doctors, Managers and Engineers that all enjoy video games. Certainly you don't have to dress up in a fancy suit and go to some hard to find gallery to play games (though dressing up is widely accepted as cool, as per comic-con. ) And you don't have to be looked down by the elites of society, as those same people sneering at you for being middle class are being slaughtered by your UbEr-L33t skills on MW3.
Even Politicians, long seen as a gamers' arch enemy, play. During the last senate election in the U.S, the democratic candidate for Maine, Colleen Lachowicz was "outed" by the GOP as a World Of Warcraft player. She was in fact quite an advanced player, a level 85 rouge orc. Of course, The Republicans flipped, claiming she spent "days" committing "depraved acts of violence". They sent out screen grabs of her chats between players, including one rather amusing bit where she threatened to hunt down Grover Norquist and "Drown him in my bathtub". Certainly a LOL worthy comment, but as anyone who has played five minutes of Halo online will attest, a very tame threat compared to the more average language heard in a pvp match up.
On and on the Republican's went, going so far as to set up an entire website dedicated to exposing her double life as a Rouge Orc. As often happens in these cases, the gaming community came to her defense, and Colleen sailed to a solid victory over her republican opponent.
In a statement her own campaign office released, she pointed she often played some titanic stars of screen. Names like Vin Deisel, Jodie Foster, Mike Meyers and Robin Williams were known to join her on her quests to eliminate the brutal alliance. Even the developers were onside when Blizzard LLC (the makers of WOW) sent her a signed copy of the new expansion pack Mysts of Panderia , which she said she hopes to play when she has the time.
Indeed, the internet has served gaming well, and has brought together billions of people from all over the world and all walks of life to enjoy a shared past time. In South Korea, it's practically the national sport. Starcraft and Counter-Strike Tourneys are regularly broadcast on the national channel and millions of viewers tune in to watch the proceedings. Gamer guilds are treated with the same respect in South Korea as Hockey Teams are in Canada. It's one indication of how the future of gaming will take pop culture by the short and hairy.
And again, as all the signs are showing, video games have no where to go but up in the world of pop culture. Big name actors like Gary Oldman, Timothy Olyphant and the aforementioned Vin Diesel have all signed on to do games in the last few years, and as the well in film dries up, their peers are not far behind. TV networks are increasingly giving ad-space to big name titles. And social media, the maker or breaker of achievement in this decade, is owned by new video game news.
So at the end of it all, I hope you get a grasp of what it's like to be a gamer in 2013. Your fellow players are stars of screen, US senators, the people you work with and for in the neighborhood, public servants and people just like you and me. You are no longer a geek, nerd or Poindexter. You are an affluent, critical consumer of the latest and greatest in technology and pop culture. You are a man, a woman, a child. You're 17 in your mom's basement, or you're 37 in your in own home. And anytime you want, you have billions of new friends and enemies waiting for you all around the world, just a few mouse clicks and button presses away.