Welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast. This is Mike.
And today we’re talking about my favorite topic – the power of the gaming.
That’s not my favorite topic, but still I think I will learn something new.
You know what Vladimir? You don’t strike me as a gamer. You see, a gamer knows a gamer when he sees one right. So, this was… I’d say you’re not a gamer, so you’re a newbie, one we’ll call a noob. And I’ll go easy on you today.
Okay, okay. So wat is videogame industry worth worldwide?
Okay, let’s start with some statistics here okay. So in 2014 guess how much this industry was worth? Six years ago, right. And we’re not talking about millions here, we’re talking about B, billions.
Yeah. So you guess a rough estimate and I’ll tell you the real answer.
Okay, I’ll try. Maybe 40 or 50 billion?
Try doubling that, try doubling that. 81.5 billion. 2014. Now, compare this to the movie industry. The global film industry around the world, including tv, yes, was worth less than half that. Was worth something like 35-36 at the time, so by then you could see, in 2014,
the video gaming industry was by far the most profitable entertainment industry in the world. Far surpassing music and movies. So in 2018, this is an interesting part, think about how much it has grown. Have a guess.
Maybe it doubled? Or something like that?
Almost, almost. It actually was worth 134 billion. So you can see the incredible exponential growth by then. And the year later, 2019, last year, it was worth 152 billion. So you can see it just grows and grows and grows. It’s a real growth industry, right.
Because it’s just… It’s just… Everybody loves it, everybody is in tune with it, right. I mean, even the youngest to the oldest -they just love this thing. Right.
Okay. So why do you think it’s growing so rapidly? Is it because it’s so popular with older people?
Yeah. I just think it’s because it’s such a powerful force in the world today. Because it just caters to so many kinds of people now, right. Now, right. Not back then but now. So as I said before – young, old, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, male, female, story-lovers, to even thrill-seekers.
You know, especially now, when everybody has a supercomputer in their pockets called a mobile phone. These things become… video gaming has become more accessible to everyone, to every type, right.
So there’s always something on offer for anyone and everyone in thew world if video game. If you don’t like one game, there’s something else, another game that’s gonna drive you crazy. Right. And this is really in contrast to the 80s and 90s.
This were the beginnings of video gaming history. You know, back in those days, it only catered to one kind of people, one kind of people… Two kinds of people. Kids, right. And also these nerdy young adults, right.
So these were the only two types that really loved video gaming at the time. And the world saw gamers at that time… You’re either a guy… You’re either a little kid.. If you love video games, you’re either a kid, or you’re some nerdy guy, who basically doesn't have a life, right. And that was sort of a negative stereotype.
That was a stereotype endowed upon gamers at the time. Totally different story in 2020. Totally different.
Yes, I see. But can I ask you a question? Why do you think people like playing video games? I’m trying to understand the reason why they do this. This is quite difficult to explain.
This is, believe it or not, this is a sort of a question in what they call video game design, right. These are these professionals called video game designers, right. And they create… their job is to create systems that you play. Video game is like a system.
Like a systematic way of doing things that hook you, psychologically. They are designed to get addictive, right. And there is a great deal of psychology that goes into this. And you know, there have been many articles on why, from a psychological point of view, video gamins has become such a powerful force in modern life.
That psychologists and psychiatrists have to deal with this problem when it becomes a problem in people’s lives, right. So it’s sort of closely tied in with, like, behaviorists of addiction. Some say it’s dopamine hits and serotonin. There is this neural chemistry involved.
But ultimately, it’s just fun. It’s just fun, right. It’s fun but at the same time many many emotions are coming in towards you. That’ll be emotions of competition, jealousy, anger, right. Depression, hopelessness, they are all kind of… It’s a real emotion fest, that helps people feel these things.
I think the word is feel. Feel things that they can’t feel in their mundane, normal, routine, ordinary lives that has become addictive, right. And this is not localized to video games. Anything from music to movies to, you know, even pro wrestling, or even, you know, sports- they’re all making people feel things.
Video games allow people to feel. But they also allow people to ponder. Think, to reflect upon life sometimes, cause I think video games have become more than just gaming. I think they’ve become some sort of art.
And actually can video games be considered art? Do you really think so?
Absolutely. I actually think that, I think that it’s actually the greatest form of art in the 21st century. I actually think so. You know, when I was a kid, there was a wide belief among the art community that film making was perhaps the greatest form of art, because it combined everything from cinematography, from the visual, down to the audial, down to the performance of the actors.
It combined it all together and thus film directors tended to be much older than, you know, artists in other art forms, because they needed to be the kind of people, like maestro, they need to be the kind of people that could coordinate all these different disciplines and create a single, you know, well-flowing piece of art.
And that took a long time to develop. Right, so, the film making when I was a kid in the 80s and 90s was considered the most panicle of art. I think in the 21st century that’s a different case. I think video gaming does that, all that, combined all these disciplines together, plus, it combines game design.
Well-designed game makes people wanna keep playing it. Right. And then of course it encompasses the programming, language. It’s actually more a complicated a piece of art.
And it’s no wonder that, you know, really really well-selling games around the world have more money invested in creation of it, more time for creation than movies. Right. Because you have hundreds if not thousands of people working on a single project, right
What used to be the big-big blockbusters of the back in the day, the budget of that, you know, the video game budgets today are not only a rival, they surpassed it. It costs thousands of millions of dollars to make these things. If it’s triple A, AAA means it’s on top of the range, top of the range kind of games.
As far as I Understand, video games combine different type of art like music, movies, design maybe, right, that’s why we can definitely say it’s art nowadays.
Well, it also affects other forms of art too. I mean, like, the new series, the Mandalorian, the new Star Wars series, that sort of has been getting mad about around the world. I know a lot of Russians who have seen it and they loved it. You know, this series. Do you know when this series was filmed?
Yeah, it’s very interesting. So, they have a three hundred… They have actors, so they put a scene, it’s futuristic, right, so it’s space fantasy. So you’re supposed to have like a futuristic bar, right, in some kind of off-world planet full of aliens. Well, what they did…
Traditionally what you have is guys dressing up in alien costumes, sitting around, you know, where they’re touching this designed bar, these kinds of things. They didn’t have to do that with this film, with this series.
What they did was they put actors in costume in a gigantic 360 room full of I think 6K or 8K, high-high, ultra-high resolution screens. Right. 360 degrees. And they created the back, the background, using what you call video game technology.
So they take an engine, what they video game engine that’s used to create shooters. It’s a very repitated, it’s a game engine that has been on for a very long time. It’s in its fourth edition now, and they used the unreal engine to generate the background.
So you no longer need to transport your cast and crew. If you’re shooting a desert, you don’t need to transport them to the desert. You just need a computer guy to use a video game engine to create a desert. Because it looks so photorealistic, these engines look so good, so real.
That you can get away with it now. So they use high-definition screens to do that. That’s one way video games make a huge contribution to the other arts.
Yes, of course. That’s interesting and now it makes sense to me. Okay, and but maybe we can talk about… We can look at video games from a different perspective and I know that lots of people say and claim that video games contain a lot of violence. So, what do you think about this issue?
Yeah, well, here is a thing about that – this is something that came around, this was a big issue even in the 90s when, you know, when video games really took off, started taking off, running its first steps. And the first game that really caused a stir was a game called Mortal Combat, which was a fighting game, you know, like a street-fighter.
Yeah it’s very popular. And it was a hit amongst kids, right. They spent a dollar-coin, two-dollar-coin to play this thing, right. The problem is that it had a lot of violence. Even today if you look at it has a lot of violence. And the biggest thing was one character ripping off another guy’s head.
And the spine coming out, or ripping out the guy’s heart or putting in, you know, making him fall into a pit full of knives and blades. And being secured by it. And this made parents around the world and politicians around the world, you know, real anxious.
And then they went crazy and they said that video games are gonna turn their kids into psychopaths and murderers. Now that was strike one, okay. The next strike, the second strike was the biggest, it became the most damaging thing. Have you heard of the Columbine massacre?
No, I think. Or maybe… It is familiar.
Yeah, Columbine high massacre. What happens… Yeah it is familiar because it was America’s first real school-shooting.
These two high-school students in, you know, they were avid players of a game called Doom. Doom was a representative of games, even today, it’s still very popular all around the world. And you know, it was the first video game that slows you, from a first-person perspective, hold the gun and shoot other living creatures.
Right. So this guys were the avid players of that game, well, they came and shot guns and automated rifles and handguns and whatnot. And then they came in and they killed a whole bunch of kids, right. It was revealed that they were into the movies like the Matrix. You could see that they had a lot of influence with the Matrix they way they were dressed and came to school.
And, you know, there were avid video game players and that was strike two… Basically, the world started condemning video games, they started putting ratings on it. So that, you know, certain kids can play certain games and, you know, if you are too young, you couldn’t play certain games. If you are old enough, you could play certain games. It totally didn’t work. It totally did not work. Because no kid really adhered…
The parents did not know what video-gaming was. They even didn’t know maybe how to buy certain video games. Right?
So, It never worked. The rating system never worked. And today it’s almost universally ignored. Yeah? Nobody really cares, you know, these things. But interestingly enough, emmm… You know, as a lover of video games, I’ve always, we’ve always stood on the side that video games do not cause psychological tendencies for violence. That was always how it stands. Right? Because we could see the music was doing , sorry, movies were doing just as good job if not better.
Right? I mean those movies from nineties were really violence
I mean they were doing a better job. Interesting enough. A few years ago I dated a psychologist and we went into this topic. And she told me… She looked and I said video games just don’t cause violence, that’s not true. She turned around looked at me and just, you know, shook her head and said – that’s not what the research says.
Well, from the world of psychologists, psychiatry, they’ve done research of this, right. They’ve took test groups and whatnot and did a large-scale, what do you call it… Large-scale research and every research kind of shows that video games and pornography tend to create, you know tendency for violence.
Violent behavior and violent thought at least in young adolescents, right… So, sort of been proven in their world, yeah, that this things have a profound damaging psychological effect, in the world of psychology and psychiatry, right. But the problem is they are never gonna win. I think they never gonna win. They are never gonna convince the world.
Oh yeah. That make sense.
They’re fighting with one force that they cannot argue against, which is money. This thing is grown to the point where nobody can control it. Really. Interesting enough there was one nation that tried to control it and I am not sure how they are doing well with that. But we’ll talk about that at a later point.
Ok, ok, yeah. Because it’s interesting. And… Well, so we’ve been talking about psychology and psychiatry and my next question is… Do you think video games have the power to effect human life and human relationships?
Well… Yeah. I mean I’ve seen examples of that plenty of times throughout my lifetime. I’m gonna start with the good.
Let’s start with the good. I’ve known people who’ve been through depression and, you know, a lot of video games these days have stories and some of these stories are written by an obviously professional writers who know their craft. Right?
And so they play story-genre games, and these games are like movies that you play essentially. A lot of people don’t understand that. My girlfriend doesn’t understand this. I told her it’s art and that the stories in it are just as good as the movies if not better.
She doesn’t believe that. But they really are, they’re really that good. They’re top-notch riding, some of these, right. And as people, some people who are depressed play these games, they find hope. And I would say that one that has been representatively craven bad is a game called the Last of Us.
It’s a story, it’s a postapocalyptic story and there’s sort of a story about love, about a father who loves his daughter and a girl who’s lost in life. So they’re coming together to create hope for the future, for themselves, right. So these things have a profound effect on people’s psychology.
In a positive way, right. And I’ve also seen people who have mental conditions, yeah, mental conditions that wouldn’t allow them to live normal social lives, right. So guys who have you know, sort of like social anxiety disorders. And they find friends online, they have friends, they find people they talk to, with the power of the internet. Now you don’t just text, you talk to them.
And I’ve seen people who have these online friends, they are very supportive of each other. Right. Yes, they’ve the corona whole thing before us, they’ve done the whole online, you know, social distancing, all that stuff way before us.
So I’ve seen good friendships form from that. I myself don’t communicate with other gamers, right. I don’t. Because I tend to be a little bit of a lone wolf, even on the online space. So yeah, I personally don’t, but I’ve seen people who have, right.
Now we can get to the bad stuff.
The bad stuff, okay. So there is this subculture, I’ll give you one example. In Japan. And there’s about a million of them in Japan, right. And other countries around the world too, not just in Japan.
They’re called the hikikomori. And these are guys, young men usually, mostly in their 20s and 30s, who’ve trapped themselves in their home 24/7. And do nothing but play video games and watch anime.
And they have absolutely no social life, no ambitions, they live off government money or their parents’. And they just… Basically, it’s a modern day recluse or equal of harm. Right. And part of the this, part of the thing that keeps them going in this little box they created for themselves is video games.
They’re video games, right. All of them are pretty much avid video-gamers. Or anime lovers. So, I mean, you can get to that. It allows people who are already inclined to be reclusive are tool to become even more reclusive, right.
It’s like giving somebody who’s violent a gun, right. It’s not a good idea, right.
But the difference is that guns are regulated, video games are not really regulated as much. So it can create some really bad situations. You can actually call it the other way. They actually lose hope the more they play games.
And the other thing is I suppose, you know, gamers, many gamers around the world have lost girlfriends and boyfriends over this. I mean I was talking about this. I was at the dacha a weekend, a couple of weekends ago…
Probably because they’re isolated, they live in their own shells.
Yeah, that’s right. I was with a guy and he’s an American, and his girlfriend is Russian. I was with my girlfriend also. And we were, four of us were smoking hookah in the room, right. And we… I said to the American guy, I play games, we’re both gamers, we both were talking about this.
We started talking for about 10 minutes. The girlfriends, our girlfriends started rolling their eyes and going oh my god… They’re talking about video games. And they were talking about how much they hate us playing video games.
Now if we were not half-decent people, I could tell if they were not half-decent people, they would leave us. You know what I’m saying. It’ll never get to this point with us, but because we are common-sensed people. But there are people who don’t have much common sense. And they play these things while neglecting their girlfriends and boyfriends to the point where you just leave.
You have no choice. It’s like dealing, I guess, with alcoholics or gamblers. The same addictive behavior, right. So it’s… It can be very very damaging to human relationships.
Yeah, it’s a problem, right, you are right. And Mike, so you have been here for a year, I mean, you’ve been in Russia for a year. So what’s your experience with the video gaming culture here in Russia?
It’s a very vibrant, it’s a very very vibrant environment for video gaming. And I was wondering why that was. And I think I know the perfect reason. At least here in Siberia.
Your weather. Your weather.
When it come to the winters here, I mean, it gets cold here. ….
So outdoor activities become challenging and expensive, right.
Well, if you go the video gaming stores here, they’re pretty big, by their size they’re doing a good business you can tell. So a lot of Russians when it comes to the cold winters and whatnot, or the cold springs or autumn, they wanna sit at home.
There’s a lot of indoor culture here, and when they’re indoors, they gotta do something, right. And you can’t invite friends all the time, so people like to fire their gaming machines, they like to play video games. They like to read anime, they like to read books. There’s a lot of that. And video gaming is kinda like an established indoor culture here.
I can tell that it’s very profitable here in Russia and you know, being profitable means there are a lot of people who are fans of video games and have it as a routine. And thus I can see the same kinds of problems that could develop here when it comes to video gaming, you know, affecting human life and relationships.
I think, I don’t think Russia’s exempt from that at all. Yeah, so. I don’t know how you feel about it, I don’t know how you feel about it, the current culture of video gaming and gamers in Russia. I mean has it reached the point of being a societal problem or a society’s problem or?
Well I don’t think that it’s a problem really. Yeah, of course I agree with some points that, for example, in terms of maybe violence it can be dangerous for, not for all gamers but maybe for children or like adolescents whose, how to say, maybe who want to…
Maybe who don’t have much experience, much life experience, and that’s why they try to copy some patterns of behavior from video games. But in general I think of course it’s quite okay, and lots of people do this. They have positive experience mostly.
What’s the history with that? Have there been any major shootings or stabbings or any sort of violent behavior affecting society?
Well, as far as I know fortunately we haven’t had such cases.
Right. And that’s just good, I mean, 144 million people. Right, I mean, there must be an incredible size of video gamers here, a number of them yet… Maybe psychologists in Russia should do a research on this, right, why is that in Russia it’s not a problem.
I think it’s a good topic for a research.
What about the reclusiveness? The hikikomori culture we talked about before?
Well, it may be a problem, because I think that anyway teenagers, they share the same characteristics, they share maybe the same behavior, and that’s why they can be, they can stay at home all the time, just playing computer games.
From my experience I can tell you – I had one student, but it was maybe around 5 or 7 years ago. And he was a gamer, and he did really badly at school because… At university because he played all the time and of course it was not good for him and it caused some,
just negative things maybe in terms of his relationships with other students, fellow students, because he was quiet, he didn’t want to communicate much. And also he had some problems with his school, I mean in terms of academic performance, so.
So it did affect the relationships no matter what. Right. So there are those kind of guys.
Yes. But for example, when we started talking about video gaming and computer games he was just wow, I know everything about this topic, let me tell you, let me share my experience with you. And it was, in this case it was good for him.
So he, later on in life, he would have found a circle of friends who think on the same kind of…
I think so, yeah, anyway.
Yeah, yeah, I think so. I mean… I mean, I’ve seen some Russians here who learned a lot of English by playing video games.
And that’s an interesting point! So do you think that video games can be a good tool when you learn English?
Certain kind of games, for example, certain role playing games are so story-rich, like there’s a mount of texts that’s in them rivals a, I would say, a novel, a small novel. And I told this to one of the Russian girls the other week, and she didn’t believe it, she wasn’t buying any of that.
But, I mean, but she doesn’t know the world like I do. Yeah, I Mean some of these really have a lot of text to read, a lot of listening. Yeah, it has become a story telling art, form of art.
So video games can teach you English, right?
Absolutely, absolutely. Absolutely.
Okay, that’s good. And, well, okay, I have one more question. So, what countries dominate the video gaming world as an industry? Because you mentioned some countries right.
Yeah, I mean, there are some countries that are very prominent in this. I suppose when it comes to the profits, so where these 152 billion dollars come from, right, we talked about. Obviously. This is an order, so China, USA, Japan, South Korea and Germany.
These are the top five. This is… You know, it’s not an extent that professional gamers come from these countries the most, right, around the world.
But when it comes to development of the industry, pretty much US and Japan dominate. They dominate these things.
Because the other two big… But however, there are students all around the world, they also contribute as well. Probably the most well-known is a Polish developer called the CD Projekt Red. So they created the Witcher series which were based on the books, but they created the video games series that became a hit.
And now Netflix has sort of taken that up and created the tv series out of it. And they are highly respected, they are highly-highly respected. They started as a little Polish developer that has now gone global.
But I suppose the biggest problematic area in gaming today and perhaps seen as the problem by many, by the world is China.
Yeah, China. Well, there was an incident last year, it was called the Blizzard incident. Blizzard is a gaming company, that created a very popular world of series called the World of Warcraft and the Diablo, these sort of games. And it was a problem because, well, you remember last year.. Still today I suppose it affects, the Hong Kong riots? You remember those, right?
You remember those, the fight for democracy kinda thing, right. Well, China has a very authoritarian way of doing business. And I can understand it from their point of view, that they need to control that that they have 4 billion people, unlike anybody else around the world.
Well what happened was is that during an e-sport tournament, I think it was Star craft or something, basically one of the top players had won the competition and the prize money was quite large. It was in the six figures, and it was US dollars. And he came up – his winning speech was stand up for Hong Kong, right.
And then immediately Chinese government put pressure on blizzard to drop him. So he didn’t receive his prize money, he was stripped off tis title, and for doing that. Now you have to understand something. Blizzard is an American company, right. It belongs to the world of democracy, right.
Yes, you are right, right.
The world of democracy, right. It’s freedom of speech, we respect freedom of speech. But in China if you wanna do business, you have to adhere to all of their authoritarian demands. And on of those demands is you don’t speak ill of the government or go against it in any shape or form whatsoever.
Or you’ll be dropped as a business, right. So we started thinking, so the gamers around the world started thinking – is it wise to do business with these guys? Is it wise for the companies from our nations to go into these countries? And it started changing their tunes on certain issues.
Because then need to do business in this huge market called China. So they would sell out essentially. Profit over principles. Right. So it’s begun to really question us in our morality and ethics. Right. And then… But I also see it from the Chinese point of view, right.
It’s that in China it is unacceptable for guests to insult the host. As far as China is concerned. Any company that comes to China to do business is a guest, right.
So you must adhere to strict rules, and if you go out of them, if you deviate, we don’t do business with you, right. So I understand their point of view, but at the same time it goes against our principles, right.
Okay, yeah. Now I understand. So in this case – what’s the future of this video gaming culture?
I think it’s gonna go VR, virtual reality, you know those things that you wear on your head and you can see things in 3D. I think that’s gonna be the next great interactivity, interactivity in the ways that other ways just can‘t do, right.
And this thing will be in the quarantined world combined with the power of video gaming is gonna create a VR revolution. Cause imagine – we’re teaching classes online in front of the screen. Imagine now video conferencing, and meetings, and teaching 3D. Almost imitating, mimicking real-life situations, mimicking real-life meetings and stuff, right.
Perhaps we don’t need to travel to school anymore. Right. And that’s a great… We found out that this quarantine and being stuck at home and doing things online can be of good.
Can be of great power, so I think that the power of gaming , the way that its force, this unstoppable force throughout technology combined with our need to stay at home will bring something, some sort of new technological, you know, revolution in our daily lives. You know, that’s a very very likely scenario. You know. Alright, we talked a lot about video games today.
Yeah, and thank you so much Mike, because a lot of information was new for me.
You’re welcome. Okay, guys, this was the BigAppleSchool podcast. This is Mike.