Let the games begin… transforming our lives for the better.

I I never realized how much impact games had on my life until I thought back to my childhood. Experiencing a first betrayal through a +4 UNO card (really infuriating), discovering bankruptcy by losing all my houses in Monopoly, and running face to face in hard pillars in real life while catching virtual Pokemon in Pokémon Go – I have to give the game credit for teaching me some pretty important life lessons.

This is just my experience with games, but I’m sure it’s not unique. Even if we don’t realize it, games have always been a part of our lives in one way or another. Most of us see gambling as just a pastime or pastime – something done as a cure for boredom or for relaxation.

But in recent years, gaming has also evolved to such an extent that people may regard it as a legitimate job or business, especially with gaming-focused monetization platforms such as Twitch taking the world by storm.

Put it all together and I wonder: what is the overall impact that gaming has had on our society? As an adult, I’m not such an avid gamer anymore, but I still recognize how games have changed my life. When this impact is multiplied by the experiences of millions of people, it is hard not to notice the correlation between the evolution of the game and the development of society.

If we think about games in our world today, maybe a few popular online games might come to mind – Among Us, Wordle or even Call of Duty. However, the definition of what constitutes a “game” goes far beyond current online iterations. Chess is a game, though focused on strategy and intellect. Even the Olympics are also technically games, but with an emphasis on elite athletics.

While modern games have been poorly received by the public due to concerns about their addictive nature or adult themes, we must not ignore the benefits that games in general, both modern and traditional, can and have brought to our lives . There are many cases and examples over the years of games helping us develop our mental and physical abilities.

Chess is one of the most obvious examples of this, having developed a reputation for intellectual pursuit by testing the wit and strategy of the world’s greatest minds. But there are also games like Pokémon Go, which managed to make players social and active by having them walk around their neighborhood to catch Pokémon. Even groundbreaking concepts such as the Metaverse took hints from the graphics and concepts present in digital games decades ago.

Games change our lives, whether we know it or not.

For millennia, humanity has sought to make learning fun – and what better than to gamify learning?

Known as “the oldest tool in education”, games have long inspired learners to develop their analytical and problem-solving skills. An example is the deceptive simplicity mancala, which dates back to ancient Egypt and has been adapted and performed by many cultures around the world.

Coined as ‘pallankuzhi’ in South India or ‘congkak’ in parts of Southeast Asia, this game has been instrumental in teaching young children to count when calculating the stones or marbles they collect against their opponent in the game.

Ancient mancala game board. Image credit: Cultures of West Africa

Today, games are still used as an educational tool, but through different media such as the digital space. Games such as March Mammal Madness or Jumpstart respectively taught cognitive skills and the basics of math, language, science and even art to young gamers. More recently, Roblox is gaining popularity for giving kids their first taste of coding, 3D modeling, and animation.

The definition of what constitutes a “game” goes well beyond today’s online iterations, and it’s important for us to recognize the many benefits that games, old and new, have brought to us.

There are growing cases for using video games more actively in education, and that may be exactly what is needed to build a learning base for future citizens of a digital society. Digital or not, however, the fact remains that playing and learning have always, to some extent, gone hand in hand.

Perhaps one of the greatest appeals of games is that they have the ability to keep us engaged. From adrenaline-pumping missions to tricky logic puzzles, games keep us locked in. I never thought about this feature until I entered the working world and noticed that companies are actively gamifying their ads to gain and keep audience engagement.

As a consumer, this makes perfect sense. Instead of mindlessly watching a static ad, I now have the less boring option of playing a quick game, which forces me to pay attention and makes me more engaged. Businesses can capitalize on this opportunity by including call-to-action buttons at the end of their playful ads to direct me to the download or purchase pages of their apps. It’s a win-win for both the brand and the consumer, really.

Beyond ads, e-commerce platforms also use mini-games to keep people connected. Shopee, for example, has a “Shopee Farm” where if you diligently plant seeds and aquatic plants every day, you can earn Shopee Coins to use for online purchases. The idea here is that the more time people spend on the app, the more likely they are to buy something, especially when they receive a small incentive like small amounts of Shopee Coins.

Perhaps one of the greatest appeals of games is that they have the ability to keep us engaged.

Games provide a variety of consumer engagement opportunities for businesses beyond traditional aggressive selling, especially with the introduction of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR).

For example, fashion brands such as Kohl’s and American Eagle have gamified their in-store experience with augmented reality features via Snapchat so consumers can participate in “virtual try-ons” of their desired outfits. The new wave of digital fashion is a clear illustration of how industries are changing by gamifying their retail strategies.

This has important implications not only for consumer buying behavior, but also for how customers interact with brands and what they expect from brands, thus driving changes in a fundamental part of society.

When you think of art imitating life, games sure did in their early days. However, as technology advances and we move towards a convergence of physical and digital, the reverse is gradually proving to be true.

With the evolution of technology, games have become increasingly sophisticated and realistic. Developers experimented with new concepts and systems in the virtual world, but often rooted them in real-world logic for realism. They also introduced new business models such as free play and doubled down on existing models such as microtransactions.

Slowly but surely, signs are emerging that these hallmarks of modern games are becoming the building blocks of our digital future. The Sims, for example, came out over two decades ago and gave me my first taste of “online life” before social media was a thing. Now, as I watch the ever-growing metaverse, I can’t help but draw parallels between its virtual models and The Sims, because they look so similar.

SIMS vs Facebook Horizon (a pilot VR space planned for the metaverse). Image credits: ea.com & VBetween Beat

When you think of art imitating life, games sure did in their early days. However, as technology advances, the reverse is gradually turning out to be true.

Even in terms of financial systems, we can benefit a lot from games. The Metaverse uses microtransactions, which have long been a familiar concept in the gaming world. There are of course some differences, namely the basis of operation of the Metaverse blockchain and the fact that there is no ( yet) single authority controlling the real value of virtual assets and currencies. But it’s hard to deny the influence of games in getting us to this point.

In the pursuit of fun and competition, games have always been an integral part of human history. They challenge our minds in problem solving and our bodies in physical exertion. More importantly, they push us to innovate and adapt, helping us grow as we learn to overcome new obstacles and trials.

It’s quite remarkable to see the games of my childhood become, in many ways, the basis for incredibly complex technological developments today. From transforming business practices to entire lifestyles, it’s clear that games will continue to drive a myriad of innovations in the digital space and beyond.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing this transformation unfold firsthand, and I’m very excited to see how gaming can help move our society forward!


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