I grew up gaming with my brothers, and over the years, I had a chance to see some of the most significant evolutions in the industry.
At first, players were in self-contained worlds like those of the Mario or Zelda games. For the games that allowed you to play with multiple people, everyone had to sit in the same room with each other, within reach of the nearest controller.
Once the internet connected players and created multiplayer worlds online, everything changed. Communities began to form around games like World of Warcraft and Second Life—groups consisting of people from different cities, countries and continents.
When I began studying anthropology, I realized the significance of these online communities and became fascinated in learning more about how people interact and live online. I noticed that in some ways, gamers were ahead of their time. They created and maintained sophisticated online communities and ecosystems that generally were ignored by the non-gaming public.
Today, more aspects of the gaming world are coming to the “real” world, and people are beginning to take realize how these will impact their day-to-day digital lives.
Here’s why the future of work and society will be heavily influenced by the gaming community:
Gamers are building and exchanging in immersive, distributed communities.
The original communities built around online gaming platforms were more complex than you might imagine. People created ways to exchange goods and services, just like any culture.
As I researched these games, I saw digital currency emerge again and again. Every digital world had a way for players to buy, sell and trade items within the game. Over time, these exchanges began to spill out into the real world. Rare in-game items were being bought and sold for hundreds of dollars on sites like eBay. Even corporate giants got in on the act, creating games that allowed users to purchase upgrades and items with fiat currency.
But the idea of digital currency didn’t disappear. In fact, it was the precursor to the current cryptocurrency boom.
The links between digital gaming currencies and the current cryptocurrency boom have been well-documented. Yet it’s interesting that many people are still unaware how the bitcoin they buy on an exchange is connected to the concept of in-game value.
Out-of-game and in-game experiences are experiencing crossover.
Society as a whole is already moving in the direction of increased interaction with the digital world. AR and VR are constantly improving, and we’re getting glimpses into the future of online communication and community building.
As a result, the leap from gaming application to real-life application is going to be seen more frequently in the coming years.
For instance, there’s a lot of excitement within the gaming community about blockchain technology. Gamers essentially beta-tested digital currency, and now they’re testing the possibilities of blockchain. People will soon be using it to tokenize assets within a game—and within real life—in order to make them easier to represent and sell on a decentralized exchange.
The first blockchain-based MMORPG—Neon District—is already here, using Ethereum’s ERC-721 standard to create unique cards which act as collectable items within the game. And Tel Aviv-based startup Clanplay just raised $2 million to develop a platform which rewards users with cryptocurrency for completing certain actions within a game. Still, that pales in comparison to the $40 million raised by Cocos-BCX for their blockchain-based gaming platform.
The exciting part is that the space is still in the early stages. Gamers are constantly at the forefront of technology and communication, and they’ll have more to offer as everyone continues spending more time online.
People will begin to live more of their lives in digital communities.
Increased time online is a given, as the methods for communicating and connecting have gotten easier. Think of how revolutionary texting was—and how video calling changed that.
Even early in the evolution of online gaming, the only possible means of communication was through typing in a little text box. Now, of course, there are headsets and webcams that allow players to both hear and see their gaming partners. That’s opened up plenty of new opportunities for online communities to grow and thrive, even in tandem with our physical communities. Just look at the explosion of the game Fortnite among young adults and children. It may be a computer game, but it’s not unheard of for school projects to be hashed out in the evening while the group plays together.
Online communities will continue to grow as people seek out others with the same interests or hobbies and find better ways to communicate with them and enjoy their company digitally.
There’s no question that new tech will change how people interact. The only question is what it will look like. If you want to be the first to know the answer, it’s probably a good idea to keep your eye on the gaming community.