Taking gaming seriously

Jean Claude Elias
Jean-Claude Elias is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.
For years I kept thinking of computer games as a futile pastime for grown-ups who really had nothing better to do, and for teenagers unable to play real life games or enjoy outdoors sports. With time this vision has naturally evolved, and I came to take these games more seriously, recognizing their importance and their value, even though I am still unattracted and not ready to participate myself in the global phenomenon.اضافة اعلان

Figures about gaming are well beyond my personal and humble change of mind. They are almost unbelievable. According to finance.yahoo.com, “the global gaming market was valued at $173.7 billion in 2020, and it is expected to reach $314.4 billion by 2026”. This is seven times more than the recorded music industry itself! For, according to statista.com, “in 2020, the total revenue of the recorded music industry amounted to $23.1 billion”.

On January 18, news.microsoft.com said: “With three billion people actively playing games today, and fueled by a new generation steeped in the joys of interactive entertainment, gaming is now the largest and fastest-growing form of entertainment.”

Several facts are here to confirm and illustrate the size and the global impact of the gaming world.

Earlier this year, Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard, the company specializing in gaming and known, among others, for the popular game Candy Crush, for $68 billion. This alone speaks a lot about what may come ahead.

Whether playing on a computer or with a dedicated console such as Microsoft’s Xbox or Sony’s PlayStation, playing alone or competing with others, locally or online, for pure pleasure or for money, gaming is everywhere. The phenomenon has reached astonishing proportions. Young and less young people are hooked on trending games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto (GTA for the aficionados). Contrary to what one many think, age has never been a criterion anyway.

Stepping in a computer retail shop in Amman or checking their catalog online reveals the importance of the hardware for gaming. These are, for instance, large screens with very high refresh rate for smooth viewing of fast action games, expensive video cards that alone would set you back between JD400 and JD1,500, controls like joysticks and others. Yes, gaming is expensive.

A computer geared up for powerful gaming costs two to four times more than one good enough to conduct simple business or run standard applications for personal use. Most of the time, gaming enthusiasts opt for the desktop computer format and not for a laptop. Indeed, adding optional hardware, increasing disk storage and memory size, and installing advanced video cards is easier with a desktop. In some extreme cases, it is the only possible choice.

The attraction is understandable. Microsoft entices one to use its celebrated Flight Simulator with this invite: “Travel the world and experience over 2 million cities.” It is hard to resist. The recent releases of Flight Simulator have brought unparalleled realism to the game.

And what about Oculus Quest 2, the gaming experience enhanced with a stunning 3D virtual reality (VR) vision that is a special form of gaming and requires dedicated hardware? Put on the VR viewing mask and go for an exhilarating balloon ascension or enjoy practicing target shooting. My teenage grandchild introduced me to Oculus Quest 2 last month, and I must say it was an unforgettable experience.

Gaming gear like Oculus Quest 2 goes beyond simple fun. Architects, among other professionals, use the device to take a virtual 3D walk inside the construction models they design, and even let their clients join in the virtual visit before moving to the real construction phase.

Gaming does not only involve action games with expensive equipment and software. Online competitions between people at two different ends of the world include a large variety of card and other kinds of mind games. Some do it casually, reasonably, whereas for others it is a real addiction.

In the end one understands how and why the global gaming market weighs hundreds of billions of dollars.

To correct a little what I wrote at the beginning of this article about my lack of interest in playing computer games myself, I must confess that Microsoft Flight Simulator and Oculus Quest are two exceptions. Every now and then I give in, and I play, but it is in no way an addiction, like it is for countless people I know.

I started playing Flight Simulator in the late 1980s, with the first releases of the game, which had little to do with the current versions in terms of realism and thrill. But the fun and the learning were there from the beginning.

Some would argue that Flight Simulator is not really a game. It may be a valid viewpoint, but people in general would look at this kind of applications as a game. An example: there is a professional driving simulator at the Royal Automobile Club of Jordan, installed to a train car and truck drivers. It is a large and expensive system, with a powerful computer, dedicated high-end software designed in France, a real driving seat, and an immense display area measuring 90cm x 350cm. Still, when visitors come to see the system for the first time they often say, “it is a big Atari,” referring to the name of the well-known, old gaming console!

As for Oculus Quest, it is hard not to be attracted by the immersive VR experience. It truly takes you away to another world and makes gaming worth the effort, the money, and the time.

The writer is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.

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