The Day You Discard Your Body Chapter 6 – The pull of video games

by Marshall Brain

Video games represent a major form of entertainment in America. However, it can be hard to understand how pervasive video games are because people generally play them in the privacy of their own homes. Here are several statistics that help bring the massive popularity of video games into perspective.

In 2004, Americans spent $7.3 billion buying 248 million video games. These games run on video game consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation 2, or they run directly on home PCs. [ref] To put that in perspective, movies bring in about $9 billion a year. When you consider that movies have been around for about a century, while realistic video games like Halo have only existed since 2000 or so, you realize how powerful video games have become in the entertainment industry.

When the game Halo 2 was released, it sold 340,000 copies in its first day, bringing in $125 million. The game Grand Theft Auto, San Andreas sold over 2 million copies in a single month after its release. In the United States, there are over 35 million Playstation 2 and Xbox consoles found in American homes. [ref]

The point is that video games appeal to a huge and growing audience, and the popularity of video games is increasing as they become more and more realistic.

You can get a perspective on how far and how fast video games are progressing by looking at these two screen shots. The first is Pac-Man, one of the most popular video games in the world in 1980:

The second is from Half-Life 2, released in 2004:

These two games are separated by only 25 years, yet they look like they are from completely different planets. One is a flat, pixelated, handful-of-colors-on-a-mostly-black-screen game. The other is a photo-realistic real-time romp through an artificial world of incredible depth and detail. The two games cannot be compared. It would be like comparing a backhoe to a spoon.

The progression is remarkable, and the realism keeps increasing with the release of newer game consoles. This quote offers a perspective on just how realistic things can get:

Bizarre Creations, developers of the forthcoming Project Gotham Racing 3 for Xbox 360, have hit back at accusations of faked screenshots, following last week’s Studio Update. After the posting of an incredibly detailed screenshot of buildings from the game’s New York level, some people believed it was so realistic as to accuse Bizarre of posting an actual photograph. [ref]

Video games will become more and more popular as they become more and more realistic. And eventually they will become so realistic that you could imagine yourself “living” inside of a video game. However, there is a big problem with video games right now…

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