With Gartner Inc. predicting the gaming industry’s worth to grow from $70 billion to $115 billion by 2015, it’s hard to dismiss video games anything less than as a media powerhouse. With more and more people playing video games on consoles and computers, many companies are looking for ways to promote their products to bigger, more diverse audiences.
Lots of people play video games, but not as many people get to brag they test drive games and gadgets for a living.
T.J. Stephenson, an anthropology student at the University of Tennessee, works as a college representative for Ubisoft. Yes, Ubisoft: the guys that make both Assassin’s Creed, Prince of Persia, Rayman and those addicting Just Dance games. Stephenson gets to spends his time outside class promoting and planning events as head of the campus’ street team. If that isn’t already enough to make a gamer’s thumbs tremble, he also gets to play new games before they are even released.
The street team, founded in 2010, uses on-campus events and Facebook to attract members such as Stephenson. His duties include creating promotional plans and budgets, holding contests, creating several events throughout the school year, and even attending those midnight release madhouses. “I first heard about it last year when I went to a video game party in the lobby of North Carrick,” Stephenson says.
Video game industry-based campus rep programs attempt to build a “gaming community” on campus, and the businesses strive to buck the stereotype that video games are reserved for teens – and only boys, at that. Hard data supports this gender-free approach, such as the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s 2010 study that reported 67 percent of US households play video games and 49 percent of those gamers are 18 – 24. And while the majority of gamers were male, it’s hardly “vast”: 40 percent of all gamers are female.
With such figures, it’s logical why Ubisoft appeared on campus that same year. The street team hosts events all over campus – their biggest event to date a full-scale Just Dance 2 launch party held in Presidential Court October 2010 that featured four stations to play the game. The street team also recently held release parties for new music game Rocksmith and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the newest installment of the ever popular series.
Technological advances – such as the motion gaming found in Just Dance, the use of a real guitar versus a plastic one in Rocksmith, and 3D featured in the Nintendo 3DS – are key in creating games for both casual and hardcore gamers, and it also makes it possible to create new types of games and add features to old ones. However, integrating the newest and latest technology into your game doesn’t always make it good; and sometimes buyers find they’ve dropped $59.99 just to angrily flail a controller around their living room. “I hate motion gaming that’s done incorrectly,” Stephenson says. “I just hate that for the most part it is an excuse to make crappy shovelware.”
Whether its lack of story, lack of heart, or a rush job to get a game out just in time for Christmas, these products are the gaming world’s space filler. Thankfully, with every negative there is a positive, and not all of the new trends result in angry gamers playing rehashed games with 3D as the selling point.
“It has really gotten more people into gaming, which is always a good thing,” Stephenson says.
And with hundreds of games being featured on Facebook and smartphones alongside the thousands of titles for consoles and computers, it seems more of a feat to not be into gaming.