Over the course of the last 20 years, video games have morphed from an entertainment choice to a lifestyle. According to a 2018 Nielsen study, a whopping 66 percent of Americans 13 and older identify themselves as gamers. Here's what you need to know:
- A massive 24/7 online community. Instead of needing friends to be physically present to compete against, gamers play with people from all over the world at all times of the day. By having the community attached to the video game, an online society exists where gamers spend hours and even days immersed in this alternate online reality.
- Video games as a spectator sport. These online game communities create a platform to give visibility to the top game players. Gamers now watch other gamers for new playing strategies and for entertainment.
In May, a League of Legends video game event drew a record 127 million online viewers — 23 million more viewers than the 2018 Super Bowl! The National Basketball Association (NBA) and Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) have taken notice and have their own virtual teams (eSports leagues) as companions to their live-action leagues.
- Gaming as a career. The top gamers in eSports leagues sign contracts with their teams and have endorsements with outside advertisers. In addition to eSports, skilled gamers can set up accounts on YouTube or Twitch to gain viewers by showing off their abilities. One of the top streamers, who goes by the nickname Ninja, has over 5 million YouTube subscribers and makes more than $500,000 per month playing and commenting on the game Fortnite. Parents can even hire Fortnite tutors for their kids.
Tips for healthy gaming
With this phenomena sweeping the nation, here are some tips to consider as you ponder your gaming experience and that of your kids:
- Monitor games and communities for age appropriateness. Like movie ratings, games have ratings and recommended age ranges. Those are a helpful guide, but do your own research before making a decision. Make sure you are comfortable with what you are seeing and reading.
- Maintain a healthy balance. The increase in popularity and ease of access to online games creates the need for a greater awareness of the addictive nature of video games. Like with any form of entertainment, if not properly controlled the effects can be devastating. One of the biggest issues school counselors face today is lower student productivity because of over-indulgence in video games. Set gaming boundaries that will allow you or your kids to keep up with responsibilities.
- Invest in multiple environments. If you find that you or your kids are only socializing with online friends, some changes are probably in order. Make sure adequate time and energy is being devoted to developing your family and in-person relationships, as well as a gaming social life.
- Be realistic about career aspirations. The enormity of the industry creates many unique career opportunities, but they are not easy to obtain. The supply for these careers far outweighs the demand. This is especially true for professional gamers. Know all your risks and opportunity costs before making any major commitments.
The popularity of video games is only expected to increase as technology continues to advance. If you or your children are active gamers, try to stay up on the latest trends and understand the risks to ensure a healthy gaming experience.