Gaming started out as something geeky but has moved into the mainstream. Gaming therefore has become a huge industry and will continue to expand and evolve. In a slow but gradual process, low fidelity digital spaces such as a text-based website slowly evolve into high fidelity and more immersive gaming worlds. These worlds fulfill the function of a ‘third place’ and offer meaningful activities to users, such as new identities that can be constructed or new virtual communities, such as a clan, that provide meaningful relationships and social objectives, e.g. a quest.
As countries become urban, high-income societies, people also experience poverty, a lack of physical space in dense cities and social inequality, all pushing people into virtual worlds. Furthermore, gaming can become ‘escapist’ for people who feel disconnected to the modern world. Practices of gaming continue to evolve, with ever more elaborate game-worlds, personalized experiences and increasingly integrating with other everyday practices such as sports, education and care.
As VR has been touted as the new ‘computing platform’, we are still waiting for a killer app that will foster acceptance by boosting popularity among a larger consumer base. Video games could become this ‘killer app’, as gamers are willing to spend as early adopters.
New interfaces combined with data and neurotechnology can lead to a new category of technologically induced altered states. Examples are deprivation practices, brain-zapping techniques and neuromodulation, but also new cinema formats, video games and virtual reality experiences. The Covid-19 pandemic is giving a huge boost to experimentation in the virtual world, as more consumers are moving into video games.
More immersive gaming worlds provide new ways to express themselves and connect with others, such as social relations or rooted practices among collective communities. New technologies can provide even more ‘thickness’ to this identity, for example by tying a character to one’s personal ID or make virtual worlds interoperable. As such, virtual avatars can become true substitutes for their physical self.
In modern societies, as people move to big cities and become less religious, they will increasingly seek altered states as consumers through artificially constructed means such as music festivals, video games, and psychedelic drugs. Indeed, historically, people mainly achieved altered states through nature and religion, but as this is not feasible anymore our desire to maximally fulfill our human potential remains present in these artificial means, such as video games.
Rooted in digital/virtual practices, the video game industry also has lots of experience to create virtual worlds and practices. With the ongoing digitization of our living worlds, gaming will increasingly blur with domains such as work, education and shopping, by providing imperatives (i.e. gamification) and principles to monetize these activities. As such, gaming companies also provide healthcare or create digital art.