Gaming: From Niche to Mainstream


Gaming From Niche to Mainstream

The idea of video games first emerged in the 1950s when scientists developed computer systems that could play noughts and crosses. Over time the use of video games has grown exponentially. When they were first released or played, a lot of people saw them as dorky or even lame; however, video games today are firmly in the mainstream, having affected and been affected by a lot of elements of pop culture. However, the question is, how has this transformation happened when so many other things fail to ever make an impact or enter the zeitgeist? Read on to find out more. 

The Beginning 

In the 1970s, the first commercially available video game was released; at that time, it was not really possible to play these games at home – unless you were incredibly wealthy and could afford to purchase and operate an arcade game at home. Computer space hit arcades and was coin-operated. Over the next decade or so, more and more video games were released in the arcades. At the time, arcades weren’t wildly popular because, again, they were seen as a little geeky or nerdy. 

However, in the 1980s, video games started to increase their influence. There were several video games that were either inspired by or helped to inspire television shows. For the most part, these were cartoons that were mainly for kids. Games like Zelda, Mario and Pac-Man all had their own spin-off shows. Obviously, the first video games were incredibly basic, which perhaps added to their limited appeal. For example, the first few video games to be released in the arcades didn’t even really have a proper soundtrack. They were overlayed with music, but the music itself was made on the computer and featured jaunty little beeps. 

The Shift

Video games first started to see a real shift into the mainstream in the 1990s. It was during this decade that content based around video games took off and became incredibly popular, more popular than the video games themselves in some cases. Pokémon is a great example of this; it began as a Nintendo Gameboy game before it was developed for television. The cartoon was incredibly popular, and it spurred on a number of pieces of merchandise, including clothing, card games and more. 

Films on the big screen were also heavily influenced and inspired by video games during this time too. This was, in part, because they already had a guaranteed audience that could be shared between the fans of the films and fans of the games, which meant that it was mutually beneficial to develop and release these games. For example, in the mid-nineties, Mortal Kombat was released, the studios had high hopes, but the film was not a success at the time, although it has since developed a fan base. 

The first film based on a video game to see success was obviously Lara Croft. It was released in the early 2000s, and studios hoped for success, but after the reception that Mortal Kombat had, their hopes weren’t that high. However, the film was incredibly successful and aimed to capitalise on the success, and the general public’s growing interest in video game culture, several films based on video games were released afterwards, but they failed to have the same impact as Lara Croft. 

During this time period, game consoles were released, which helped to increase the popularity of video games because they could now be played from the comfort of their own home. It also allowed developers to include better music in the game because audio could be sampled. This meant that computer-made beeps were officially a thing of the past. Instead, songs and soundtracks could be recorded and uploaded onto the games.

The Internet

The Internet

The internet has further transformed how gaming is approached and helped to increase its popularity too. A lot of different platforms began to release their own games, which then captured sections of the market that previously weren’t catered for. Take Candy Crush as an example; how many middle-aged mothers were playing video games before this? Not many. In addition to opening up the potential market, the internet has also been instrumental in developing new ways to game. The truth is that the internet has revolutionised a number of gaming subsets. Take gambling as an example; gambling is technically a form of gaming, just with higher stakes. The internet helped to give gambling a new lease on life, dramatically opening up the market. Why gamble in a traditional casino when the live action can be found online too?


Gaming today is incredibly popular. It is firmly cemented in the mainstream. In addition to a demand for new games and concepts, a lot of game developers are appealing to their audience’s sense of nostalgia. As a result, older games are being revamped and reintroduced to the market to great success. Pokémon Go is a great example of this, it appealed to fans of the original game or show as well as new audiences, and it utilised new technology to help to differentiate this offering from the previous iterations. 

Films, TV and music continue to be influenced by video games too. One of the most recent examples to come to mind is the film ‘Free Guy’, which follows an NPC character who effectively comes to life. Black Mirror also did an episode using a Mortal Kombat style game as a plot device. In addition, video game soundtracks have entered the charts, and famous bands have recorded songs exclusively for video games. 

In Conclusion

In the beginning, video games did enjoy success. However, the success was marginal compared with the audience and the profits that gaming as an industry enjoys today. Initially, gaming did have a bad reputation either for catering to nerds or for being a waste of time. However, gaming today is a hugely competitive industry, and there is even the potential for players to make money gaming professionally or working as a playtester. As a result, gaming developers continue to innovate and look for more ways to keep their audience captivated.

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