Gaming levels up

Video games, internet have created an industry that will only continue to grow

By Jessica Maldonado and Leah Luedeman

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Obsessed With Gaming

Sitting in his bedroom in front of a CyberPower PC with components he added on his own, all of Senior Sergio Alcala’s attention is on the League of Legends tournament he and his team of four is playing.

photo by Alexis Madlang
Freshman Noah Urbana enjoys down time during a free period, playing Super Smash Bros on his Nintendo Switch.

Alcala plays up to seven hours a day on his computer and up to 10 hours with seniors Austin English and Evan Bogert and sophomore Keenan Xiong, practicing for tournaments.

This past weekend, the team placed first in two tournaments defeating seven other teams in League of Legends.

“We were pretty hyped when we won because right before we were making jokes that we were going to lose the first game because it was a single elimination tournament,” Alcala said.

In preparation for these tournaments, the group sets scheduled practices almost every day against other teams, playing for two to three hours. In addition to this, they practice in regular games for a couple more hours, and by the end of the night, they reach up to five hours playing on their computers.

Xiong, introduced to the game by his older brother, has been playing for four years but does not spend that much time during the school week playing.

“On school days I have lots of homework, so I play up to an hour, but during the weekend, if I have time I play more than that,” Xiong said.

Senior Alec Lusher, while not involved with tournaments that much, does play other games for up to nine hours on weekends like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Halo Reach, and Rainbow 6 Siege to unwind.

According to Gameindustry.biz, the average teenage boy will spend more than 16 hours per week playing video games. The stereotypical gamer can be painted as a lazy person who wastes their time staring at a computer screen. However, that negative perception is changing.

“League requires really intense team coordination and communication. We have to think of and change our game plan depending on each game,” Alcala said.

A Social Community

Around school during lunch or before the start of the day, students can be seen on their phones with earbuds in. Although it is hard to tell what they are watching, a good number are watching internet videos of people playing video games.

The gaming world gives players a wide variety of opportunities for social interaction, whether it is in person or online using social media. Alcala watches usually an hour a day of video gaming content on YouTube and Twitch.

YouTube, a popular streaming service, has over 1.3 billion users, and almost 15% of the content uploaded on the video platform is about gaming. The gaming channel created by YouTube has 83.2 million subscribers.

This channel houses the top live games, live streams, trending videos about games, and recommended gaming videos based on subscriptions. The channel puts everything into one place, so users do not have to search for what they want, and it increases the community.

Online communities, such as the one formed by YouTube videos, allow people to bond over favorite characters and games. It makes it easy for people to find a common interest. Users can also watch creators to find more about their opinions on things, or just to watch them play the game. Most gaming channels have thousands of subscribers, so fellow users can discuss games with others in the comment sections and enjoy the social experience.

Twitch is another video platform that is specifically used for live streaming gaming content, with the same impact on the community as YouTube does. It has around 140,000 viewers at any time and has more than 4,500 user channels. This makes it easier for fellow gamers to bond and communicate as the service is for people that have the same hobby. They can comment on videos with the streamer and other viewers that could reply instantly.

“I like tyler1. He’s a pretty good league streamer, who’s pretty entertaining to watch,” Alcala said of a Twitch streamer he commonly watches.

Not only is a community built by the internet, but one is formed with gaming tournaments hosted around the world like the ones Alcala, English, Bogert, and Xiong play in. Each game has its own tournament, attracting gamers with similar interests.

Social networks are not formed only by watching people play or playing competitively, but many online games have social features and multiplayer opportunities. In multiplayer games, gamers have to work with others in order to achieve their goals, forming a bond.

Big Business

To fit with the changes in video game style, the business model has evolved to keep up with demands. With two and a half million gamers around the world, the video game business, according to Forbes.com, is estimated to reach $300 billion by 2025.

The first major adjustment that led to increased popularity was moving games away from physical media and making them available as digital downloads. More people are likely to buy something that they can get instantly with one click and they do not have to fight crowds or worry about their item being out of stock in the store.

This change has caused businesses to gain revenue because mobile games earn money with paid add-ons and special content, beating out physical copies of games that rely on consumers paying large amounts of money up front, and then buying sequels and future releases in the store.

While the traditional video games can typically be purchased online or in stores now, free-to-play online games have become increasingly popular and earn money from in-game purchases. Fortnite, a free-to-play online game, made $2.4 billion in 2018 with over $1 billion made with in-game purchases.

The introduction of multiplayer games are relatively new, whereas 10 years ago, video games were for one solo player against the computer. The social features change the way companies have thought about game development because they no longer need to focus on selling new versions as it would be too costly to switch for such a large user base.

The Call of Duty franchise in 2016 showcased this phenomenon when the new version earned less than half of the 2011 version’s sales, despite having a larger number of users. Meaning, it would be more cost-effective to make purchasable updates regularly than making a new version.

Thinking Ahead

photo by Alexis Madlang
Freshman Dylan Khreich had to recreate an object in MYA put a bckground on it and put a turn table in it to it can spin around.

Popular video game companies such as Nintendo, EA Sports, and Sony Computer Entertainment have made these changes, switching to digital games in order to increase revenue and popularity. They fit their games to what users want. In the case of EA Sports, they update sports teams with new players and have better graphics to hook more and more players in.

The gamers who play these games often become the employees who work for these companies, and they often take classes in high school that lead to these jobs. Modeling and Simulation, the program of emphasis at Hagerty, provides a starting path for this opportunity. Students who play these games can see if they want a job dealing with game design or programming.

“We have four previous students that are working for bigger companies. We got one working for a doctor, a medical office and doctor hospital and we got three doing internships,” Mod and Sim teacher Samuel Adorno said.

As video game companies constantly update their games and lure players to buy or play more, some players not only take an interest in playing the newest version, but the magic behind how games and social media platforms can intertwine. Especially with the uproar of people getting famous off of streaming, such as PewDiePie.

While Alcala is more interested in majoring in Economics and minoring in Math, he wants to start streaming as a hobby and see where that goes. Lusher, on the other hand, would not mind taking the opportunity to stream for a living.

“If I was confronted with an opportunity I would consider getting serious about it, but right now I mostly play to have fun with friends,” Lusher said.

Lusher took AP Computer Science Principles his junior year and Modeling and Simulation all four years.

“I would like to major in computer engineering or computer science and work at large tech companies like Intel or AMD,” Lusher said. “But again if the opportunity came up I would take it in a heartbeat.”

The gaming industry is huge and will continue to grow. Whether winning a tournament, beating every level or even getting a career in the field, gamers have a more legitimate place than ever before.

This story was originally published on Hagerty Journalism Today on January 5, 2020.