Where would the games industry be today without non-gamers? Were it not for people like my Mum and my sister, who don’t consider themselves to be gamers and yet visit some mobile or online game every single day, the industry would be without an area of huge growth.
It’s easy to comment 0n the gamers who declare that they don’t play video games as this supposedly new demographic of women and the over-35s – although my Mum was playing fantasy football years and years ago, before Silicon Valley got all hot under the collar about casual gamers and online social platforms, making her unwittingly the archetypical hipster of gaming trends. But in fact, I think that unacknowledged gaming is more widespread than this much-hyped demographic. It’s not the strength of the demographic that causes tacit gaming, it’s the strength of gaming itself.
I can only give my own experience as an example. When I started university, I quit video games to focus on my work. I didn’t have time to spend over a hundred hours on the latest Final Fantasy, or to grind away at some action title so that Zoe from SSX could max out her stats or so that I perfected the art of combat through my flavour-of-the-month Tekken character. I had classical Japanese texts to translate and grammar tables to complete. So I quit.
Except for the ten hours or so a week that I played Civilisation with my then boyfriend. And the hour or so every other day I spent looking for diversion on Newgrounds. And the holidays, when I allowed myself a ‘brief session’ of Dwarf Fortress that, in retrospect, took far more of my time than any Final Fantasy title. And then there were the table games I brought out when I had friends over, which didn’t count to my mind because they didn’t involve a screen. And the LonelyGirl15 ARG didn’t count either, because it didn’t require a console or a decent graphics card. Neither did that admirably ambitious but nevertheless appalling ARG they made for the Beijing Olympics, which nevertheless took hours and hours of my time because I was able to use it as a vehicle for practising Japanese translation.
Gaming creeps up on you, and captures you when you least expect it. This is why console gaming is in trouble; to play a console game requires either a conscious decision to dedicate some of your precious time to a video game, or a relationship to your console so loyal that you can’t imagine leaving it behind when your lifestyle changes. Browser gaming and mobile gaming aren’t just about new demographics who never played games before. They’re about gaming that seamlessly blends into your life, that’s accessible at all times and ready to grasp your heart right at the moment when you’re receptive to it. Persistent gaming may be a lofty ambition, but we’re already halfway there.