This article suggests that there are 2.6 Billion people who game in the world! That is a huuuuuge number!

In a sense we all “game” when we play games at work, on weekends with friends, but they’re word games, card games, random old games – maybe we even play some mind games…! 🙂

But what I am getting at – and it’s only really dawned on me this year – is that this industry has been growing ridiculously for years and is the “bitcoin” of audiences, ie. imagine that sharp upward curve. I personally (until now) would just think of a gamer as a male teenager who locks themself away for hours on end in their room to play random, pointless games, much to the frustration of their parents who wish they’d be outdoors, or be social, or do something more useful with their time. Worthwhile attitudes… but now it’s parents who are playing games too! Parents who should be working and doing chores, and spending time with their kids (who arguably, might be gaming too, maybe with them!).

Where does this leave us? Well, we can’t go back, well we could but I highly doubt it, so it’s likely as the world goes online more and more folk will stay there and do everything there!

I don’t want to do the maths on how many hours it equates to each month for our world, that folk could use that time to learn to cook, help a neighbour, or fix up their home, or advance their career but it must be a ginormous amount of hours! The reason I learned about the stats was through reading on SE Journal, and then, a week later, on the daily mailer I get called ‘The Morning Brew’ – which I am testing out for 2021 as a new way of getting fresh news. I have grown a little tired of the Guardian’s journalism, though I still visit it daily, and find it hard to find something our there more visually appealing to get an overview of major news. I now also have a premium subscription to the economist to enjoy something different, and the articles are certainly longer, and of a higher academic calibre – which will be good for my brain. 

All that to say, this is big news that was echoed across some major news services, that as much as we have a pandemic, the quieter, more invisible ones are likelier more deadly and here to stay with us. We all know diabetes, HIV, heart problems, obesity, cancer, and other things plague the world (sometimes especially the western world) but I wonder if sitting in your chair an extra two hours a day playing a game alone is one of the worst? I am sure down the line that the social effects through no human to human contact, and the hours of staring at a screen, and the lack of any exercise wil be catastrophic. 

I am all for games: monopoly deal, settlers, and what have you are so fun to enjoy with friends but the joy is the facial expressions, the awkwardness when you’re exposed as being super competitive, the break for a meal or drinks, the laughter, the way a game can break the ice for a better conversation – it all contributes to making ‘leisure’ all that more leisurely, and yet games that look a lot like work – ie. sitting at a computer screen, or worse mobile phone – surely can’t be all that fun?

Of course, I am very wrong, they have captured the imaginations and time of ~ ⅓ of the world’s population for a reason, so let’s work out why?

Gamification – we all love to complete that task, to get 100%, to have no red notifications saying “1/10 quests unfinished” or whatever

Escapism – The reality is so many folk have hectic lives, whether at home, or work, or have no work, or are really depressed, and perhaps have few friends, and/or no success at school/work and this is an arena they can thrive and get some thrill that only those A team sport players had in years hence

Leisure – As much as I am contradicting myself, for some, it reallyis pure leisure and fun, and I am sure tonnes of the games have a human element, if only because you’re doing it with a friend across the world/suburb

Laziness – You could go for a run, or cycle, or see a friend at a coffee shop at a cost of some time and perhaps a few £££. But… why not stay at home and have all your dopamine hits in comfort!? Yes, surely a lot of these games are free (are they… I’m not sure but some certainly are) and that path of least resistance must be enticing, especially in the northern hemisphere winter, which is likely half the year in most places. Thankfully, a good ol’ fashioned outside upbringing was mine, in sunny RSA. 

Which makes me think: why whine about this all without coming up with a solution, and my first thought towards that end immediately brings to mind the game we had to play for I think 2-3 days (as in an hour a day) back in Grade 10 Geography class…. Sim City! I can’t remember everything about it but when the teacher told us were were going to do that I think the whole class’s jaws dropped, big time. All that to say, it really formed my mind, and career, in a tiny way – I recall thinking ‘wow, town planning would be so cool, and governing a small town or city’ – I still think of studying towards that type of work to this day

So, my solution: use the gaming bug biting so hard across the world for common good. Find a way to gamify all the world’s problems, and get these gamers to combine their hours to do something that is enjoyable, and perhaps even profitable. Perhaps a government photographs over a million things in a city, and citizens go through all the images and mark which ones have signs of potholes, weeds, broken fences – and for every helpful thing you contribute you get a deduction on your rate, or vouchers towards something like a grocery store.

It’s not a new idea, apparently the data on the stars in the sky is so inordinate that people volunteer time to help map the skies. Now, shoehorn that idea into things like traffic, crime, air pollution, and a hundred other things and you have perhaps 1% of citizens in each locale working towards city/town improvement and you could be on to something In fact, maybe a rule is you can’t audit your own city to prevent bias, and corruption etc.

Anyway, just a long, silly blog post but maybe there is a way that all these monthly man hours spent gaming can be turned to a force for good one day, and, marketers like me can stop thinking of gamers as an audience to be marketed to (the gist of the articles I came across) and a group of people who are willing to “work” an extra hour a day at gamifying our planet earth into a better place.

Ps. Find this kind of thinking interesting? Well, I did do so some work in behavioural economics with two friends/colleagues for three years and read some books in this field to boot. See what I read and learnt by following these links:

Citylab

Thinking fast and slow

Nudge

Pps. I also found this article from the Morning Brew interesting. It’s where I first learned about Roblox, when they wrote ‘You might not have heard of it before, but Roblox has 115+ million monthly active users, including a third of U.S. kids under the age of 16. In July alone, Roblox logged over 3 billion hours of play.‘ I’d certainly never heard of Roblox before….