Video games are no longer for children

The other day, on a flight from Medellín to Bogotá, I sat next to a woman in her mid-forties who during the 35-minute flight was glued to her tablet playing something. I did not identify the game, but she dragged her finger from one place to another and followed instructions from a gentleman very similar to the intrepid Baron Munchausen. Upon landing, the lady continued with her business and did not even grab her cell phone to see her WhatsApp messages.

Those of us over the age of 40 belong to a generation that has always associated video games with a pastime for children and adolescents. But in the last decade, especially since the pandemic, this panorama has changed. Just last year, 3.2 billion people were connected to a video game. According to research by MIDIA Research, today more console owners are between the ages of 35 and 44 than those between the ages of 16 and 24.

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Seven of the 10 largest technology companies on the planet are investing multi-billion dollar sums in the sector. Surely, and although it is already monumental, the next great industry worldwide will be that of video games. Faced with this panorama, which will take place in the coming years, we must prepare ourselves for what this implies, both in terms of opportunities and also due to the implications and social challenges that we will face: an increasingly real alternative world.

Regarding this phenomenon, the British magazine ‘The Economist’ published a very detailed report on this industry and its future, and stipulates that by 2026 it will be a market of more than 200,000 million dollars, well above the music industry, the of cinema and that of ‘streaming’. In that year it would surpass pay television, which has been in a continuous decline since 2017.

The interesting thing about the growth of this industry in recent years is that it has been silent in the eyes of many and companies like Google and Apple, which we have associated with other types of entertainment, have positioned themselves as prominent players. But, contrary to the monopoly that the gringos have held in film and music, this time the business will be much more distributed, especially with Asian companies.

For brands, the communities that are being formed within the different games that exist are increasingly desirable. In Colombia there are companies that ventured directly into ‘gaming’, such as Bancolombia and Ramo. In Australia and the United States, artists offered virtual concerts in the Fortnite video game. The Boston Museum of Science organized a space mission to Mars on the Roblox platform.

How far we adults will go in the gaming universe remains to be seen, but it will be fascinating to witness what other industries will do to leverage this new gold mine, especially the media.

However, this growth is not exempt from enormous challenges for governments and their societies. Who supervises what is cooked in virtual communities? What regulation will there be against companies that create video games from autocratic and undemocratic countries? How to prevent a game from spying on us or from being the cause of depression problems? What role should colleges and universities play so that young people do not lose interest in studying and use technology only for leisure?

I close this column on a plane, from Cali to Bogotá. Next to me, a man plays Tetris with colored balloons on his cell phone. He has not left the application to see the status of his networks, nor to check his chats. My daughters, across the aisle, are reading two books I bought for them at the airport. I think that in a few years I will lose the battle and they will be like my post neighbor. Hopefully I’m wrong.


digital analyst

On Twitter: @DiegoASantos

(Read all the columns by Diego Santos in EL TIEMPO here)

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