It wasn’t that long ago that the average parent’s notion of a video gamer was of a pasty-faced high school dropout spending hours in his mom’s basement playing unpleasant-sounding games like Grand Theft Auto and Metal Gear Solid. If your own child was interested in video games, then you would frantically steer him (video gamers were almost always boys) towards a more athletic or academic pastime and fervently hope he would grow out of it soon.
Then along came the Wii console from Nintendo and, almost overnight, video gaming became respectable and something the whole family could enjoy. Sure, there were still avid Halo and Gears of War players, but they were quickly being overwhelmed by fans of Wii Sports and a rejuvenated Mario.
At the same time as the Wii was transforming the living room, PC gaming was starting to take hold. Millions of teens and adults were signing up for World of Warcraft, while computer screens at home and at work were often filled with games of Solitaire, Minesweeper, Sudoku, and more.
Social networking gave another boost to video gaming. The PC gaming craze may have reached a peak with the introduction of FarmVille on Facebook, which at one time was estimated to have as many as 90 million players. Other popular social networking games include Café World, Mafia Wars, and FrontierVille.
And then along came mobile gaming.
Perhaps nothing has done more to accelerate the adoption of video gaming across all age groups and demographics than the smartphone. Of course, mobile gaming has been around for a long time with Nintendo’s Game Boy and then various iterations of the DS, but it is the easy access to thousands of games through the ubiquitous smartphone that has finally cemented video gaming’s place in the mainstream.
Starting with early games like Tetris and Snake and leading up to today’s blockbusters like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Fruit Ninja, smartphones have become the most popular platform for video gaming, and gaming apps have become the most popular download. Market research firm Nielsen last year found that the average mobile gamer spends almost 8 hours a month playing games, a figure that rises to almost 15 hours a month for iPhone owners.
So the next time you find your kids playing video games on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation, don’t be quite so quick to pull the plug. They are only doing what you were doing during your lunch break or while waiting in line at the supermarket. We’re all video gamers now and there’s nothing wrong with that!
I have been compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.