Jordan Kelley, Content Director, BrandStorytelling.tv
During the last six months, studies have shown that people turn to comforting content and genres like comedy to find solace in an otherwise stressful world. As people seek comfort, deeper community ties and lighter topics in entertainment, similar trends are occurring in the world of gaming. We hear a lot about games like Fortnite and Call of Duty - first person shooters – which is one of the most widely recognized gaming genres, but games and gaming experiences centered around humor and community are often overlooked. However, the fact is light games make up a huge part of the gaming enthusiasts’ lifestyle. Gaming culture is not a monolith anymore, and the advent of new technologies, different styles of games, and peak connectivity allow for greater and deeper social interaction around games.
Brand Storytelling hosted industry professionals with their finger on the pulse of modern gaming during the Elevate Summer Session to help redefine the current gaming lifestyle. Folks from Fullscreen, Rooster Teeth, Adult Swim, VentureBeat, and GREY New York pointed to the ways in which the lighter side of gaming has become mainstream, expanded into other genres like humor, and become a safe space for a diverse group of young people turning to gaming for joy, entertainment value, and community.
The gaming lifestyle in the 21st century, once characterized by the “dude in mom’s basement”, is no longer so easy to pin down. In 2020, it’s impossible to say what a gamer looks like, how old they are, and how long they play. The advent of gaming on smart phones has introduced casual gaming to the youngest and oldest among us, making the act of playing video games more pervasive than ever. Within the demographic ranging from Gen X and below, there are a myriad of subcultures that can all be bundled under the broad umbrella of living a “gaming lifestyle”, which is nothing new. What is new is the social aspect of gaming - the ability to connect not just to play, but to watch and discuss what each individual is into. Platforms like Twitch (and many others popping up to compete with Twitch) that exist for the express purpose of watching other people play games demonstrate the size and power of the audience. And that audience is plugged into more than just gaming. Most importantly, they’re plugged into popular culture, and that crossover presents an opportunity for overlap in gaming culture and casual entertainment.
Evidence of the crossover between gaming and popular culture is becoming more present in major ways. Universities are taking gaming more seriously; for example, UCI has an entire gaming stadium for students that is often the home of rousing competitions. Watch ESPN and you’ll see promos for competitive gaming in a variety of genres. Again, the advent of streamers that play games means that more people than ever are watching people play games, diminishing the stigma associated with what a gamer is. For young people, it’s as easy to sit down and watch a video game play through on YouTube as it is for the previous generation to sit down and flip through channels on cable. Both serve the same purpose – they provide the comfort of casual entertainment. An added benefit for young people turning to Twitch Streams and YouTube play throughs is that more than most places in entertainment, they see reflected back to them a diverse group of players that they can identify with.
Gaming is a space continuing to be co-opted by younger, more inclusive people who are more accepting of marginalized people. It is becoming a safer and less toxic place with the advent of people speaking up and owning their spaces. Fiona Nova, a 24 year old professional gamer, production coordinator, and talent on Rooster Teeth's popular series Achievement Hunter, has a young audience who looks up to her and regularly watches her content. And while communities like the one that Rooster Teeth has built show us what seeking comfort in the modern gaming lifestyle can be, ultimately underrepresented voices continue to need support, platforms, and backing to drive the objective truth that gaming is a diverse space and as such, should be inclusive.
Gaming culture can no longer be easily fit into a box. There are more games and communities occupying the in-between spaces of gaming than ever before, rivaling the communities we typically see as front-and-center in the gaming world. And with that culture, made up of intersectional, multi-faceted game players, viewers, and appreciators, comes a desire for those different facets to influence one another and exist simultaneously. This burgeoning culture isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and with its growth will come new technologies, new platforms, and entirely new ways to reach audiences with great content that meets them where they live.
About Jordan Kelley
Jordan Kelley is a versatile creative intent on mapping new media trends and disseminating the most relevant information in the world of branded content. He is a lover of stories and an avid consumer of visual media.