Evolution of gaming

Will Day, Contributing Writer

According to the National Purchase Diary, over 90% of children ages 2-17 and around 97% of teens in the U.S. play video games.  This is a result of both the expansion of video game technology and the development of mobile gaming.  When broadly analyzed, it seems that certain games are popular in different school grade levels.
In elementary school, most of the children will mainly play simple, uncompetitive games like Minecraft. In middle school, children will usually play simple first person shooter games, such as Call of Duty.  Finally, in high school, some kids will move on to competitive player vs. player games, such as League of Legends or Starcraft, while others will choose complex campaign-based games, such as Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed.
Although many of these games do not use traditional advertising, they are all still marketed towards a target demographic.  Minecraft has not spent a cent on advertising, but has sold over 17 million copies.  At first, the game was quite simple and lacked the gun violence that is prevalent in many popular games.  As it grew, the game’s developers realized that the lack of guns in a game that could definitely have guns was not a weakness, but rather a marketing asset.  The reason that the game is so popular among elementary school children is that it seems like a lesser evil to many video game-adverse parents.  The lack of guns, paired up with the game’s encouragement of curiosity, exploration, and cooperation, appeals to parents, making Minecraft an extremely popular and accessible game to younger children.
One game that does heavily utilize traditional media advertising is Call of Duty.  It targets boys between the ages of 10 and 14. This marketing approach has worked wonders, with the NPD estimating that 36% of teenage boys are Call of Duty players.  The game’s appeal derives from its combination of simplicity and competition.  You shoot your enemies.  Although unsettling, this simplicity can be comforting for young adolescents whose lives are transitioning from the innocence of childhood to the complexity of adulthood.  Also, there is some primal pride in defeating your enemy that is not present when you outperform them academically.
As these players continue to grow up, many will certainly outgrow the simplicity of Call of Duty.   Many will turn to the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre or MOBA.  Starting out in 2003 with Defense of the Ancients, MOBA games now account for over 30% of the hours of video games played each month, about double the next most played genre.  The combination of quick critical thinking and complex strategies has led to these games being extremely popular among older teens.  These games are more complex than the ones that younger children are used to, so not many begin playing them before the age of 13.  The average age of a MOBA player is around 21.
The fact that video games are playing an ever-increasing role in a child’s upbringing is reflective of the evolution of the children’s tastes in video games.  As a child’s outlook, knowledge, and disposition changes, his or her preference with regards to video games alters as well.