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How games and gamers are evolving thanks to developer tools

Gamers and games are changing by the minute. The secret? Developer tools. See how the industry is morphing gamers into a new breed.

[dropcap]G[/dropcap]aming is a ubiquitous part of daily life. While the stereotyped image of a gamer as a young male who spends most of his time inside depending on pizza and sandwich deliveries still exists in the minds of some, the truth is that this view of gamers is not even close to accurate. Gaming is changing dramatically, on both a user and developer level.

The Changing Demographics

The current group of parents is the first that has grown up playing games. This is important on several levels. First is the fact that these adults have proven that they don’t leave gaming behind once they are adults. The average game player is now 31 years old. Older females are the fastest growing gaming demographic and outnumber males. More than 50% of all households have a gaming console.

This generation is not only actively playing they are advocating game play for their children. A recent survey in the UK noted that 75% of parents play games with their children regularly and most actively look for games to recommend to their younger kids. Studies also show that the parents play the games not only in order to spend activity time with their children but because they enjoy playing games.

Another important aspect that developers must consider is the growth of smartphones and tablets. There are more smartphones in the world than people, and tablet ownership is growing rapidly as well. In fact, as they become more affordable, more than 30% of children under 11 have their own tablet. Worldwide, more than 15% of the population (1 billion people) uses a tablet.

Tools That Are Changing The Game

One of the driving forces in game development is the online social network (OSN).

Social networking is an undeniable part of everyday culture. This is one of the reasons that badges, trophies, and other virtual achievements are a regular component of a large number of games.

It is estimated that more than 25% of the “friends” a person has consists of people they have never met in real life. This willingness to count these people as friends can often be traced to the social aspects (chat boxes and buddy lists) as well as the co-op nature of many games.

Streaming services such as Twitch have a radical impact on game development. While YouTube contains hundreds of thousands of videos showing game features, tutorials, and tips, Twitch, with over 120 million monthly viewers, provides a real time interactive experience. While most of the content is user generated, game developers are now taking to Twitch and other streams to allow potential users to watch and participate in the design of games from the start.

Ian Baverstock, a publisher and gaming veteran says that the “statistics in terms of the hours people spend playing games and watching games, are beginning to tilt toward the latter very quickly…suddenly you have to have something that is enjoyable to watch. Over the next 18 months, we’re going to see more developers trying to exploit that, specifically aiming their games at YouTubers.” Many games are already exploiting this – like Goat Simulator –  and more are on the horizon.

As Twitch celebrities grow in numbers, some media analysts feel that the day where games will require users to obtain a license to broadcast games is not far.

Growing Genres

The fastest growing sector in gaming is casino games. Here, companies have incorporated the trends and technologies driving the industry. PokerStars Casino for example offers live dealer games which features a live dealer who interacts with the players. Players can interact with other players at the table via chat box. Their games decisions are communicated to the dealer via a heads up display. The immersive nature of the game even allows players to see and hear other tables in the casino. The only thing missing at the moment is the ability to carry out game actions via voice commands.

As the population ages, more games are being developed for the so-called “silver” gamer. Cyber-psychologist Berni Good says, “We know that people’s thoughts, feelings, actions and behaviours are influenced by real, imagined or even the implied presence of ‘others’ and, even if that’s with non-player characters in video games.” As virtual reality tools like the Oculus Rift headset become more sophisticated and are incorporated into games, many developers see this as a way to allow senior citizens to engage in hobbies and activities in which they are no longer able to do physically.

Connectivity goes hand-in-hand with game development. With more and more players connected to the internet regardless of their location, the social aspect of gaming has become almost mandatory. More than 60% of all games have a co-op option and a large number are co-op mandatory. Platforms that routinely tell players which friends are playing online are common, covering not only specific games, but also a large network of games use as Apple’s Game Center.

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