by Zukanye Madakana
Investopedia, one of the world’s leading source of web financial content says the video gaming industry has grown so much that it is larger than the movie and music industries, combined. There are more than two billion gamers in the world and Capetonian, Michael Taylor is one of them. He started playing games at the age of four on an “ancient computer” used to play educational games, on which he learned basic maths. Michaels favourite game was LEGO Chess which attracted him because of its pirates theme. True to his nature, he played comedy sketches every time he would take his opponents’ pieces. At 7, his parents bought him a PlayStation-2 as a Christmas present, where naturally, his first game was LEGO Star Wars played with a friend and modelled on the first, second and third films, from the Star Wars franchise. This GAMER’S love affair endured and now, at age 23 he remains in love with video gaming. “I suppose what really captivated me with video games was the level of immersion you experienced and how it really felt like you were there. For someone like me who is a lifelong fan of Star Wars, for example, to be able to play through the events of my favourite movies with some of my favourite characters, is a dream come true. I think that the complete immersion experienced as a GAMER is for me the main attraction of the sport.”
Open-minded Educationalists would say that besides video games being fun, the right selection of games foster socialisation, when played with others encouraging teamwork and cooperation interactive. There is an untested school of thought which maintains that because children who play video games become comfortable with using technology, this is especially important for girls who generally do not use technology as much as boys. Special memories are created when groups gather to challenge each other. Michael says video games exposed him to interesting worlds and have given him great memories especially when playing with his friends. He admits that as a student, he influenced other students in-residence to play video games with him and they would host split-screen multiplayer tournaments in his room.
“It was hilarious how competitive we all got at it”. Taylor recalls one Friday night, where other students in his residence decided to not go out to party, instead challenging him to a game, with the intention of crushing him. “We ended up playing until 3am that night and I still managed to win. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a rush quite like that before”.
Avid gamers are defined as social influencers who tell friends when they find new games they like. It’s a term which Michael relates to. Asked if he would encourage people to play video games, Taylor says “absolutely!”. He adds that people generally do not realise the variety of games available and across as many genres as there actually are. “I think outside media tends to exhaust the topic covering big name games like the Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty franchises, assuming that that is all there is to video games, namely violence and fast paced action. According to Taylor, there is a library of games for almost every application someone interested, could dream up. Controversially, Taylor maintains that books and films cannot compete with the variety and applications which Video Games are able to provide.
“Games can intellectually stimulate you in ways that no other medium can, because immersed as you are, you are the one making decisions and constantly taking action, which immersion exposes the Gamer, to many interesting and different plots, twists and challenges.” A higher level of critical thinking is important and according to WebMD, when you play video games almost every part of your brain works to help you achieve higher-level thinking. Acer for Education, says alternate reality games can be used as an immersive learning system that combines rich narrative, digital technology, and real-world game play. This would force learners or students to practice critical thinking, resilience, and creative problem solving, to succeed in an alternate reality game. Michael believes it could be ‘cool’ if schools could open up to the idea of having E-sports teams in addition to traditional sports.
He says gaming is a hobby that he thinks everyone should get the chance to be exposed to and makes an example of South Korea where video games are recognised as a form of media and entertainment. “I still don’t think the industry is given proper recognition by many people”, says the Capetonian who believes that the term ‘gamer’ carries negative stereotypes for many people, conjuring up images of overweight individuals with no social skills, friends or other interests. He argues that, to the contrary, the gaming industry brings about positive change in peoples lives. “Video games have been a huge contributor to the development of Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies, which have hundreds of possible applications. Some games have even functioned like learning tools. Assassin’s Creed is a franchise famous for its depictions of historical settings, from the Third Crusade to Renaissance Italy, Paris during the French Revolution, colonial America, Victorian London, and even ancient Greece and Egypt. The worlds they create are so painstakingly designed that they are now being used as learning tools in schools”, he adds.
Cape Town hosts the Rage Gaming Expo at the CTICC annually. In 2020 however, the expo was hosted online because of the Pandemic. To find out more about this year’s event, go to www.rageexpo.co.za