Video Games | Learning by Proxy

We need to start calling them something else!

The first patent for Video Games was filed in Jan 1947. The Cathode Ray Tubes that had been invented to render the radar was to be used as an amusement device! There were a lot of experimental games that were launched in that era. Most remained in the lab for the purposes of demonstration. Either way, they cost so much that using them for "amusement" would have been criminal.

It was not until the 1970s that video games made a splash in the real world, in the form of arcade games. One had to go to specific arcades to play these games. Then companies like Atari, Sega, Nintendo and the likes introduced the world to console gaming. This brought gaming into the homes of people. Suddenly it was possible to sell to a much larger audience and gaming became big business.

The advent of computers in the early 90s and the widespread adoption of computers in the new millennium infused an entirely different energy and life into the gaming business. Game production studios such as Electronic Arts emerged. Games were still pursued for leisure, mostly by youngsters.

As the internet grew and its speed increased, multiplayer gaming took on a life of its own. It was possible for one player to play against another in a whole different part of the world.

There were specific things that found a lot of interest.

Open World Games - Open World is a format where you are allowed to free roam a world and find different missions or goals to pursue and different groups/people to interact with.

FPS - First Person Shooters (called FPS) for short are games where you are playing a soldier or a mercenary on a mission and have to achieve certain goals.

Strategy Games - Typically set in an open world, these games have a complex story and in that context, you need to figure out the strategy you need to pursue to win the game.

A mix of all this is Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) - You are in an open world (arena) where you get to battle in teams with other players. This is all taking place online and a moment's hesitation can mean death!

As these games grew more sophisticated and drove much greater interest with more and more people, one of the biggest problems was data latency.

Building-out a proprietary network is a bold move for a company like Riot Games. Though fairly large by game company standards—they have over 2,000 employees—it is tiny compared to the few internet giants, such as Google or Amazon. Those companies have become known for building their own infrastructure. Google, for instance, started working with the Unity bandwidth consortium in 2008. It invested $300 million in the FASTER undersea cable network, which took two years to complete and went live this June (2016). Facebook and Microsoft have to partnered to build MAREA across the Atlantic with a 160 terabytes per second capacity, and Amazon made its first investment in a submarine cable project May 2106.

Source: Quartz

Companies have been building out dedicated internet infrastructure to reduce latency. This has spawned an entire category of gaming called e-Sports. The people who used to play video games were treated like idiot nerds once upon a time. Today they are celebrated like Olympic athletes. Thousands converge on stadiums to watch these players compete with each other in strategy games such as the league of legends that Riot Games produces. Here is what it looks like.

This is an event that took place in Paris in 2017. This movement has been slowly growing and for those who are not in the loop, it might seem completely alien.

Two teams of 5 players each, playing on stage while their gameplay is shown on a large screen to the audience. And there is a lot of money to be won.

Source: Verge

This is the prize pool for DOTA, which stands for Defence of the Ancients, a popular MOBA. The winners could potentially walk away with 10s of millions. Just for reference, the Wimbledon awards 2.35 Million pounds to the winner.

Safe to say that gaming has changed completely and is no longer the innocent Mario and Contra that we grew up with.

Gaming has become a big business that nobody has been paying attention to. The CEO of Netflix famously said that his greatest competitor was sleep. But the truth is gaming is taking a lot of the screen time and hence...

One month after its vague announcement of a new gaming-centric strategy, Netflix has explained how it will "publish" video games in the foreseeable future: as downloadable smartphone apps, available exclusively for paying video-streaming subscribers.

The news coincides with the company's public launch of Netflix Gaming on Thursday as part of the service's smartphone app... but only in Poland—and only on Android. The company's American Twitter translated Thursday's Polish announcement, which explains how the service works.

Source: Ars Technica

The recent lawsuit with Epic Games that Apple was forced to settle was also around gaming. The truth is that most of the in-app purchase (IAP) income that Apple derives comes from gaming. The services segment generates about $20 Billion in revenue for Apple and they just take between 15% and 30% as commission.

Amazon has also been making a splash in gaming. They already bought Twitch, a game streaming platform for $1 Billion a few years ago. They are leveraging that acquisition and now they want a bigger chunk of the pie,

Amazon.com Inc. is diving into the new and hotly contested market for streaming video games, the company said during a press event Thursday that also revealed a refreshed lineup of Echo smart speakers and a flying home video camera.

Luna, a service that lets gamers play without shelling out for expensive game consoles or games, is Amazon’s biggest foray yet into the fast-growing $150 billion video gaming market. A subscription to the Luna+ channel costs $5.99 a month during an introductory period and will include games such as Resident Evil 7, Control and Panzer Dragoon.

Source: Business Standard

In the meantime, fitness company Peloton which makes exercise cycles is looking to enter the gaming market. Games that can merge with their cycles and provide another layer of immersion.

Peloton is about to enter the video game business.

The cycle maker is getting ready to debut an in-app video game called Lanebreak, a spokesperson confirmed to CNBC.

The game, which Peloton cautioned is still subject to a new name, involves riders changing up their cadence and resistance levels to meet various goals and score rewards.

Lanebreak is expected to open up to a members-only beta test later this year, according to a fact sheet, and it will officially launch in early 2022. Players will be able to choose a difficulty level and the type of music they want to hear during the game. There are different ways to win points, be rewarded and challenge other members.

Source: CNBC

In this current context, you have technologies like VR and AR making a break into gaming and trying to create a niche for themselves. Apart from Microsoft, Facebook has made a huge investment in VR. They went and bought Oculus Rift for $1 Billion. The company was still to release its final product.

Facebook has been experimenting with a lot of VR experiences and none of them has succeeded. Their recent announcement to have a VR meeting where you interact with your colleagues’ avatar as a part of their "metaverse" has also not been received well. They hope that they would be able to use the gaming market and make a break!

Facebook is the latest tech giant to get into the world of cloud gaming — but the company’s offering is quite a bit different than the competition. Unlike Amazon or Google, which both offer standalone cloud gaming services for a fee, Facebook is introducing cloud games to its existing app — several of which are playable right now.

“We’re doing free-to-play games, we’re doing games that are latency-tolerant, at least to start,” says Jason Rubin, Facebook’s vice president of play. “We’re not promising 4K, 60fps, so you pay us $6.99 per month. We’re not trying to get you to buy a piece of hardware, like a controller.”

Source: Verge

While they are targeting casual gaming, their ultimate goal would be to meld VR into this somehow.

Just as smartphones introduced us to simpler games that capitalized on unique features of phones like gyroscopes and on-the-go internet connections, many newer games blur the lines between video games and other types of social activities. Pokémon Go, Fortnite and Among Us are video games, but they are also hangouts for friends, pop culture moments, opportunities for political organizing and more.

What’s thrilling about many of the newer game experiments is that they signal a move beyond a phase in which online and smartphone media often mirrored what came before — many podcasts were like talk radio, Netflix was like TV and online news outlets were like newspapers.

I know that games aren’t all stimulating paragons of human social connection, but it feels as if something exciting is happening. There’s more mushing together to arrive at new digital forms that emphasize interaction rather than passive reading, watching or listening.

Source: New York Times

What is gaming? What are video games? The answer to the question was straightforward 50 years ago. Today it does not seem to be as simple. What would it look like in 20 more years? There is a lot of money waiting to be made if you know the right answer to that question.

The Capitalistic Paradigm

Video games such as second life have attempted to make a place in your life in a manner where they imagine you living another life online. Pair that with technologies like VR, you could potentially end up living a life that is completely online. This is the kind of world that Facebook would like to envisage people living in.

And also, one which China does not want in its country.

Under the new regulations unveiled by China’s National Press and Publication Administration Aug. 30, children under 18 will not be allowed to play video games from Monday through Thursday and only between 8pm and 9pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday: A maximum of three hours a week. The policy only applies to online games and users will need to register using their real names and government identification.

The government has limited video game use previously, like in 2019, when it banned children from playing after 10pm and for more than 90 minutes a day. At that time, it also limited in-game spending from minors to around $57 a month. Last month, a state-run media outlet called video games “spiritual opium,” causing gaming leader Tencent and its competitors’ stock prices to fall.

Source: Quartz

Capitalists would like to keep you in an online prison from which they can continue to monetise you. Show you ads, sell you virtual goods that cost nothing and keep you slipping further into that rabbit hole. They might even go to the extent of touting this as a possible solution to global warming.

Consume virtual not real goods!

That hope has not borne fruit as yet. But the attempt to make it work continues. I hope it fails.

More importantly, we are at a juncture where games are no longer games and we should stop calling them that. They have ceased to be just a mere form of entertainment. They are thriving businesses and have the capacity to manipulate and force financial decisions. We need a new term to talk about it.