There is a billboard near Penn Station advertising Verizon Mobile's new "app store." The images may be hard to see above, but nearly half of the "apps" being advertised are games - Prince of Persia, LIFE, Tetris, Guitar Hero, etc. Many people see this billboard: men and women, college students and baby boomers, fast food employees and professional athletes.
Down the block there's another billboard, showcasing a handful of games available on the iPhone and iPod Touch. One block in the other direction, there is a particularly gaudy two-story GameStop. And tomorrow, just a short walk away, Time Square's Military Island is being taken over by Nintendo to promote the release of Wii Sports Resort with a tropical-island themed "beach party." As I considered these facts, one after the other, on my way home yesterday, I caught myself silently celebrating a small victory for this great pastime called gaming.
Then I stopped myself, remembering that nearly every facet of our diverse culture manages to find a home in New York City. I remembered that there are actually a few games downloaded on my mother's iPhone - but she's never played any of them, and I or my sister or brother put them there.
Still, I couldn't help my wishful thinking. Maybe it's all the marketing getting to me, or my recently increased exposure to online gaming portals that reach the newer portions of the expanding gaming audience, but I couldn't help myself, and I formulated a very unscientific hypothesis in my head:
Within five years from now, my mother will be a gamer.
My father? Well, I'll give Dad ten years. He doesn't have the iPhone in his pocket quite yet.
When I got home, my dad - a computer scientist who is currently pursuing post-graduate studies in history - asked me a question out of innocent curiosity. He asked if they make games about the factors contributing to various global conflicts throughout history. Not wanting to waste a fine example of divine providence, I did my best to hide my enthusiasm while I attempted to explain the differences between the Civilization series and the Total War games. I offered up my review of a Gettysburg game I once played in high school, and mentioned the recently-announced project by a Norfolk University professor to make a game about the Underground Railroad (Source: Kotaku). Then I stopped myself from scaring him off with too much information, figuring Google and Wikipedia could handle the rest.
My father was just asking a simple question, of course, and it probably doesn't mean anything... or maybe, my future children are going to look forward to playing video games with Grandpa.
Hmm... I may have gone too far with that last bit. Here's a fun diversion that I encourage you all to try: choose three people in your life that don't play games - even if one of them is you! Now, pick the three games that you think could actually engage them enough to bring them back for more. Let me know what you come up with in the comments.