Illustration generated using DALL·E 2.

Game on

When I was about 14 years old I played a game called ‘Pong’. I was absolutely captivated and spent hours playing what was probably, and will remain, the simplest computer game ever invented. About a year later the local cafe put a space invader machine in their windowless basement and the youth of the town moved off the streets and into the darkness. That was in 1980, and as far as I know, not much has changed since, teenagers have lived in dark rooms playing computer games ever since.

A social event

Of course the games of today are far more sophisticated and realistic than they ever were in the far off days of my own youth. They also seem to be a lot more violent and full of gore than I remember, or is that just me being middle-aged? Many games are now multi-player team events with fully networked team members located all around the world. This of course can have great benefits for non-native’s English speaking skills, although, having listened in to people playing such games, the vocabulary they use seems to be rather limited. But even though they are connected via the wonderful world wide web, can these games be considered a social event?
When I was playing the simple games available to me in the late 70s and early 80s, there was no possibility to play team games remotely. If you played together then you were together. The cafe space invader machine was the only one in town and we all used to pile in to the tiny basement and take it in turns to zap invading alien spacecraft while at the same time having a chat and a fizzy drink. Computer gaming was a social event. Today, that element seems to have disappeared altogether.

Big money business

Or has it? Because the latest development in the world of computer gaming seems to be e-sports. When I first heard the term I thought it was a bit of an oxymoron, after all, how could sitting in front of a computer screen exercising your thumbs ever be considered a sport? Well, perhaps it can’t, or at least couldn’t be in the beginning. But e-sports has become big business, and I do mean BIG. In this incredible new world teams really do play together in the same space, but perhaps more importantly, they also train together, work-out together, eat together, and socialise together.
Perhaps the world of gaming has gone full-circle and is now a force for good rather than a way of isolating yourself from the real world.
And I haven’t mentioned the best bit. Who could ever have imagined that it would one day be possible to become a millionaire simply by being good at playing a computer game? Actually, you don’t even have to be good at playing. As a certain Swede with the moniker ‘PewDiePie’ would be happy to concur, just be good at getting people to watch you playing computer games.

So there it is folks; from ‘Pong’ to ‘PewDiePie’ in the space of just 40 years, go figure!

Written by Ian Bowie