If someone asked you about gaming what would be the first thing you’d think of? Age certifications? Kids playing inside rather that outside? Shoot ‘em ups and violent behaviour?
Gaming in the adult world doesn’t always have the best rep, but maybe it’s just that grown-ups don’t fully understand kids’ sophistication and the benefits that gaming can bring?
“Like with my PlayStation adults don’t understand how it all works. They are overprotective. They think everyone you meet online is bad – I mean you don’t give out real info and I have 2 factor authentications switched on – always!” – Ali (16)
We think that gaming has shown its positive side in 2020 and has become an essential lifeline for kids. In the first lockdown kids and teens quickly took to digital platforms to stay in touch and we reported on the growing virtual playgrounds they were creating.
Gaming provided play with a purpose, giving kids (and boys in particular) who were less likely to participate in “catch up” FaceTime calls an opportunity for interaction with their friends.
The last two years have seen gaming definitely on the up but under Covid conditions it has thrived. Amid cancelled episodes of Little Mix: The Search, delayed or cancelled cinema releases, cancelled sports training and no Strictly Come Dancing Halloween episode – gaming creators have stepped in and stepped up to fill the gaps.
Each week we speak to over 70 kids and teens age 7-14 years old across the UK and gaming has been a constant in their lives. For them Roblox has been a stand out star, with creators regularly releasing new games and the platform creating unique experiences for kids and teens to enjoy such as Lil Nas X’s virtual concert at the weekend. For many kids who would be too young to go and hear Old Town Road performed in concert with their friends, Roblox has provided a new accessible experience.
And in some instances gaming has positively reflected today’s reality back at kids:
“I’m on Level 5 (of Animal Crossing Pocket Camp) already. Even the characters are staying safe with masks on, look – here’s me.” - Jack (10)
But of course, in an increasingly crowded market, there have been winners and losers.
Epic Games’ (now free-to-play) Rocket League and Fortnite have had a good year and at the end of the Summer it looked like Fall Guys were tipped to steal some share from both . In August we began to hear about it from our Beano Trendspotters and created a quiz for Beano.com (Fall Guys even heard about it) and tried their luck at the quiz) but their popularity dropped as quickly as it rose.
Whereas Among Us saw a boom that coincided with kids returning to school. Despite being launched in 2018, this year Among Us caught on like wildfire with major YouTube stars, TikTok influencers and streamers playing it. And its popularity built on a mix of jeopardy, mobile platform and social interaction means that it continues to grow. Dubbed the “Ultimate Covid Party Game” by The Guardian and used by US members of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar to outreach to young voters in the run up to the US election, it seems that Among Us has achieved cross-generational appeal, just like TikTok did earlier this year.
With both adults and kids now seeing the positive side of gaming, it feels like gaming is on the cusp of a reputation makeover. This week the University of Oxford released new research demonstrating that gaming can benefit mental health. Using real gameplay data for the first time, the study found that people who played more games such as Animal Crossing tended to be happier and reported greater “wellbeing”.
So whilst gaming can (and does) have its problems, like everything n life it’s all about balance. And it is undeniable that it can provide important benefits for kids and teens.
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