BUSINESS

From board games to video games: How did we get here?

Bernard Blissett

A small arm rose high in the air before it slammed down onto the marble table and released two small dice.

“Oh no,” I shouted, staring at the black dots on the dice – numbers 4 and 2.

The small arm reached over, grabbing a little silver hat and quickly advanced it across the board before landing on the orange area of the board titled “Tennessee Avenue” – the one property I needed to complete my color set.

And as my face descended toward the color bills I had in my hand, my lips curved into a frown. I only had $100 in total.

“How did I get here?” I joked.

The room burst with laughter, as I sat speechless. I was losing a game of Monopoly to my 10-year-old brother. But, as I looked up at the friends and family that surrounded me, I began to realize. I didn’t care.

Games can reveal a lot about a person – from competitive tendencies to interesting thought patterns for strategy. As a kid, I was always competitive in games, but not to win. I only wanted to bring excitement to the room and get viewers involved in what was going on.

For years, games have affected the way people bond, think, and experience each other in different ways. And, through my own experiences, I believe that games are one of the best ways to bring people together, create long lasting bonds, and have fun while doing it.

Changed My Life:

Many of the most memorable moments with my family were made through games, especially video games. There were many Christmas mornings when my brother and I couldn’t wait to seize our small tree hoping that a video game or gaming console was underneath it. But, who could blame us for being part of a craze that would stun America for years to come.

In 2002, Sony released its highly anticipated gaming console to a critical acclaim. The Playstation 2 was becoming an instant success. However, competition soon came when two more systems were released the same year – Nintendo’s “Gamecube” and Microsoft’s  “Xbox.”

These consoles would soon become the sole pioneers within the gaming industry. But, they did more than entertain people with rapid button pressing and massive in-game explosions. It was an experience.

Square Enix partnered with Disney to release its critically acclaimed game “Kingdom Hearts,” and consumers rushed to purchase a Playstation 2 in order to play it. Players are thrust into a majestic world that combines famous Disney characters, famous Japanese animated characters and a story about friendship, trust and an ongoing war between light and darkness.

Nintendo released Super Mario Sunshine (often considered one of the greatest games ever played) also to critical acclaim for its complex story and difficult puzzles. Mario, in my opinion, made an interesting departure from past games with these choices created by developers.

Microsoft, on the other hand, had other plans for its gaming console. With the release of “Halo:Combat Evolved” players became captivated by its very complex story, detailed world and characters, and the epic orchestral soundtrack that accompanied the game.

But Microsoft made the game stand out from its competitors with a new and exciting option in the game. Players were allowed to battle only, using various strategies to defeat opposing teams. This not only raised sales for the Xbox console, but it established Halo as one of the most important video games ever created.

A Few Statistics:

    As gaming continues to grow throughout the U.S., the crave for new releases continue to grow. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) participates in various business and public affairs and also offers consumers research on how gaming has a positive impact in daily life. In 2014, the ESA conducted staggering statistics in their article “Essential Facts About The Computer And Video Game Industry.”

  • According to the article, 59 percent of Americans play video games, with the average U.S. household now owning at least one dedicated game console, PC, or smartphone. This makes it clear that, as gaming continues growing, it is likely affecting several people of different age groups and types.
  • 68 percent play games on a console, 53 percent play on a smartphone and 41 percent play on a wireless device. Games are alive and thriving like never before. Also, they have become more accessible in different platforms. Now, players don’t need plug-ins and a television to play, since smart phones and tablets make it possible to play on the road
  • 42 percent of parents whose children are gamers (whether PC or video games) play with their children at least weekly, while 58 percent play with them monthly. Parents are part of the thriving force of the gaming industry, through their purchases of games and involvement with their child’s activities. The ESA also notes that, 88 percent of parents said the top reason they play games with their kids is because it’s “fun for the whole family.”

These statistics alone have the power to convince a person (at least) that, games are impacting the culture for a reason. But some have also said video games are not the best tools to expose children to because some games have intense violence, adult language and other mature content.

I’m not suggesting that every game is appropriate for all ages. But, some games can be used to affect children or teens in positive ways.

Discussion:

In the fantasy epic “Kingdom Hearts,” gamers follow a young boy named Sora who, along with his friends Riku and Kairi, dream of seeing other worlds that exist.

I remember being a young teen and feeling the excitement of being thrust into the first level of “Destiny Islands.” My friends and I gazed at the screen in amazement of the vast and beautiful scenery. But before I could journey, I had to answer three important questions. My friends and I lied on the floor pondering these questions: What are you afraid of? What do you want out of life? What’s most important to you?”

These three questions alone sparked a (seemingly endless) discussion among us. And I became fascinated with my friends’ answers. For some, their friends and family were most important, but for others, it was their prized possessions.

Some were afraid of old age, while others feared being different. Questions and themes like these exist in games and can spark healthy discussion and create stronger bonds among peers and family members.

Strategy:

As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest games of the Xbox’s release was one that changed the way the gaming industry would function forever.

“Halo: Combat Evolved” is now considered one of the greatest games of all time and is still played today. But what was most exciting was Bungie’s new function of “online multi-player.” This allowed players to work together to defeat opposing players using strategy and utilizing the map the their advantage.

Constant communication is encouraged, and this can be applied in several walks of life for gamers. Players also get exposure to other strategies that work and don’t work, allowing for a more exciting experience.

Bonding:

My younger brother and I had the experience of a lifetime after we had the opportunity to play Super Mario Sunshine in the now closed store Circuit City. The store always had an aisle dedicated to video game demos. My brother and I would rush to it while my dad rummaged through the CD section.

Even with the game’s opening, Super Mario Sunshine was a bright and interesting piece of art. But it was only a single-player game.

“Here,” I told him. “You try it first.”

He took the controller and explored the world within the game for a bit before passing it back to me. I will never forget this moment with my brother because it was one of the few times we had enjoyed each others’ company without arguing over who would play first. We never wanted to leave the store because we were having so much fun.

Experience:

 Games are more than mere explosions, more than adult language and gruesome violence. But, if the right game is purchased, it can be a true experience, whether it’s a board game or a video game. But it’s interesting to look back at board games then and look at video games now. All we can think is, “How did we get here?”

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