Virtually everywhere: Have we all become gamers?

So your mum's addicted to Windows Solitaire, but does that make her a gamer? We've always played games together, but in a world of smartphones and online games, we're all finding more time to spend a round or two with a few old favourites

Feature by Andrew Gordon | 03 Sep 2015
  • Video Games

There’s a cliché among videogame enthusiasts that nowadays “everyone’s a gamer”. In a sense, it’s true. There’s a good chance that every single person you know has played a videogame at least once in their life, and it’s likely that a good portion continue to spend time with them in some capacity. Kids today have grown up in a world where videogames are widespread and have always been. To many primary schoolers, fending off Minecraft skeletons with playmates from across the globe is as ordinary as playing hide and seek in the park or trying to stick soggy wads of toilet roll to the bathroom ceiling.

But by that same token, it doesn’t really mean a lot to label these kids “gamers”, just as it wouldn’t make sense to call your granddad one just because he likes to do the Guardian crossword on his iPad. It’s not that video games have come to change who we are, turning us all into disciples of some esoteric specialised hobby, but rather that they have been subsumed into mainstream culture and have become integrated into our existing behaviours. Thanks to smartphones and tablets, playing a videogame is no more complicated than reading the news or checking the weather forecast, whereas before it required specific equipment and background knowledge. In fact, tablets are used more for playing games than any other purpose, a recent survey by Google found.

Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga are, of course, two of the most popular videogames in recent history, but they’re outliers. Look at the games that have been downloaded the most since the iOS App Store launched – titles like Words With Friends, Draw Something, the countless mobile versions of chess and pool – and you’ll notice a trend: most are adaptations of real life classic games, packaged in a way that more easily fits a busy modern lifestyle. While you might break out the Scrabble board once every Christmas, Words With Friends lets you spell out expletives with your friends and family any day of the year for just minutes at a time, even if they’re an ocean away. And why go to the effort of organising a Pictionary dinner party and risk your friends divorcing when you could much more easily get your fix by playing Draw Something? We’ve always played games, but now we all play videogames too – and much more often – because they’re convenient.

Not all real world games make for good videogame adaptations, however. Pub games are as good an illustration as any that digital versions can go both ways, even when they originate from the same specific social context. Computerised darts, for instance, is about as thrilling as a Morse code transcription of a Lighthouse Family album, whereas pub quiz apps can be great – not only are they a good way to brush up for the real thing but their questions are often regularly updated. Slot machines also thrive in a digital format. Even if your own boozer still has a puggy, chances are it’s some mangy relic that’s more likely to electrocute you than dole out a measly couple quid. No such risk with digital slots, plus they have the advantage of variety – there’s only so many times you can play the same machine before you convince yourself it's rigged.

It’s no wonder then that the shiny new alternatives offered by folks like Royal Vegas, who are one of the biggest names in online slots, are proving increasingly popular. Forget about a choice of machines: take just a quick glance at their site, and you’ll be greeted by a veritable cornucopia of virtual slot games, all with their own unique themes. Whatever it is you're into, they’ve got you covered: Steampunk? Yup. Roller Derby? You betcha. 2011’s award-winning comedy Bridesmaids? Step right up. Or maybe crane-kicking farm animals are more your thing? Then Karate Pig is just for you. What’s more, Royal Vegas’ games are playable both in your browser and your mobile device, so it’s hard to imagine a more convenient way of cranking out a spin or two when you’re feeling lucky.

So there you have it: due to the proliferation of easy and convenient ways to get in some quality game time, almost all of us can now call ourselves videogame players – and that doesn’t mean we all suddenly have World of Warcraft accounts. It's no wonder online games and more popular than ever given their versatility, perfect for a quick distraction during a tea break or as a means to unwind on a commute home after a hard day’s work. Actually, now we’re done here – anyone fancy a quick round of cards?

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