Youth Culture Window
In 2007, the video game industry vaulted over its biggest competitors-- music, movies, and even porn—with sales topping a record $18.8 billion! And a significant amount of that entertainment went to satisfy the appetite of the 12 million teenagers who play them.
Video games have come a long way since Pong and Donkey Kong. Gamers who grew up in an 8-bit graphic world can now enjoy their favorite pastime on huge screens in Hi Def! And thanks to online interfacing, you don’t have to be in the same room, or even the same country, with fellow players. Video game consoles that restricted play to one person at a time have given way to those that can accommodate multiple players at once. With all of these fun features, it’s no wonder that video games can be found in 38% of all homes in America. But all these bells and whistles have a price tag.
The hobby cost “gamers” $9.5 billion for newly released titles in 2007. A total of 268 million games were purchased by this eclectic bunch, which boasted significant increases in two crowds, “over 35” and “females.” If you do the math, and Michael Gallagher, the CEO of Electronic Software Association (ESA) has, you find that 9 games were sold every second of 2007! Tick-tock…cha-ching!
So, what are these gamers buying? Top sellers in 2007, and their ratings, were:
Bear in mind, this list represents ONLY the console-based games, not PC-based games, such as the ever popular World of Warcraft that carries a T rating. But it is interesting that less than a third of the top sellers (all of which are supported on the Xbox 360 console) are rated M for “mature audiences.” (E stands for Everybody, and T stands for Teen.) But these M games are actually very tame compared to years past where games like Grand Theft Auto dominated the market. Most Christian game reviewers don’t even seem to mind Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4.
- Halo 3 (Xbox 360) M
- Wii Play w/ remote (Wii) E
- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Xbox 360) M
- Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (PS2) T
- Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) E
- Pokemon Diamond (DS) E
- Madden NFL 08 (PS2) E
- Guitar Hero 2 (PS2) T
- Assassin’s Creed (Xbox 360) M
- Mario Party 8 (Wii) E
New and/or upgrading gamers coughed up an additional $9.35 billion for new game consoles in 2007. This will ensure big sales for games in future years, as well. Gaming isn’t going anywhere.
So, what’s behind all of the booming growth in gaming?
Dance Dance Revolution! (DDR) really gave gaming a shot in the arm a few years back. It allowed players to “do” something besides hold a controller. As a positive side effect, it was the first video game that could claim it was making Americans healthier. Students worked up a sweat while dancing with their friends and adults burned unwanted pounds in a much more exciting way than ever before.
The same kind of “engage me” appeal that made DDR a hit is propelling these games into stardom. Instead of just controlling characters on the screen, players have a much more interactive role in these games.
For instance, players in World of Warcraft might have headphones and microphones strapped to their heads, talking in real time with players around the globe. Owners of the Wii console actually take a swing with the controller in their hand when they play tennis or golf simulations. And the incredibly popular Guitar Hero 1, 2, and 3, puts a guitar in the contestants’ hands to try and rock the crowd. Rock Band players go one step further and bring in the whole band (drummer, bassist, guitarists, and lead vocalist) to compete, together.
The raging success of the latter two music-based games has spun into online chat rooms, blogs and forums, sitcom mentions, and is bringing the days of karaoke to an end. (Thank God!) Places that once hosted weekly karaoke competitions are now hosting Rock Band and Guitar Hero competitions.
In the last 15 years, video games have moved from obscurity to center stage thanks to technology, marketing, and demand. With multiple periodicals that are focused on the hobby, and competitions that are held around the country, it’s little wonder that video gaming is attracting a bigger (and better funded) crowd.
Is there anything you can do to harness this movement for good? Here are a couple of ideas:
- Keep parents in play. Literally. In whatever mediums you have, bring “Atari” parents up to speed in the current gaming world. They need to know about the games their children have in their bedrooms. Encourage or challenge them, as the case may be, with these ESA findings. The Top Four Reasons Parents Play Video Games With Their Children: It’s Fun For The Entire Family (72%); Because They’re Asked To (71%); It’s A Good Opportunity To Socialize With The Child (66%); It’s A Good Opportunity To Monitor Game Content (50%).
- Take advantage of “good, clean” games. No outreach program is complete anymore, without the addition of the gaming element. Video games like Guitar Hero, Mario Kart, DDR and all of the sports-themed Wii games will pass even the most skeptical youth leader’s inspection. Plus, each of these games allows multiple players to compete at once. Add these “draws” and you will have more kids with which to share the Gospel.
While there is much to loathe about some of the current landscape of video games, it’s quite unnecessary to throw the baby out with the water. Salvage what you can from video games to seize every opportunity available to share the Gospel with gamers. “Saving the world” is a fairly consistent theme in many video games. You actually know Someone who did just that! Introduce them to Him.
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.
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