Named the #1 Woman in Blockchain Influencer, Adryenn is a serial entrepreneur, speaker, & sought-after startup advisor.
The Coronavirus has shed light on innumerable industrial and sociopolitical problems: our fractured healthcare system, racial disparity in access to emergency services, the crushing failures of capitalism more generally.
However, COVID has had its silver linings too, especially for anyone in the video game world: gamers, gaming companies, and industry professionals alike have all been enjoying a surge in activity. Video games have been booming since we’ve all been cooped up. And that’s good news for more reasons than one.
“It’s fair to say that video games are having a moment right now — a unique and extraordinary time by any measure,” says Stanley Pierre-Louis, CEO of the Entertainment Software Association. Americans spent a record breaking $10.86 billion on video games in the first quarter of 2020.
“This is an industry that’s about community,” he adds. “Video games are bringing people together.”
Even as states are hesitantly opening up, with mixed success, many individuals are maintaining social distance and even quarantine to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy. For some, that means video games are one of the only ways to ‘get out of the house,’ sort of, or have contact with friends.
“More than ever, video games are a social outlet,” says Tod Fennell, a voice actor who you’ve heard in games like the Deus Ex series, the Assassin’s Creed series, The Division series, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint, and as the loveable Bean in Far Cry New Dawn. “They’re a great way to connect, especially during physical isolation.”
“To well-meaning parents, video games often look like a waste of time,” says Andrew Fishman, a licensed clinical social worker who focuses on the relationship between video games and mental health. But, he says, the headset is the key to how videogames facilitate social connection. Fishman says community video gaming connects people the same way as talking on the phone with friends.
“I often hear parents say that video games don’t count as healthy communication; their kids aren’t talking about anything real when they play, they’re just talking about the game or yelling at one another.” Research disagrees.
Fishman points to a study that examined over 5,800 messages sent during online multiplayer games. They divided them into socioemotional messages (like “thanks,” “nice one,” “that was hilarious,” or other expressions of friendship and support) and task-oriented messages (like “shoot that troll”).
Researchers found that socioeconomic messages occurred 3.2 times more frequently than task-oriented messages, and they were 2.6 times more likely to be positive rather than negative messages. The ruling: multiplayer gaming encourages positive interaction and helps build friendships.
“Video game acting isn’t like traditional acting,” Fennell explains. He says that because every detail of the character, the world, and the interactions exists in an imaginary world, every detail requires a craftsperson.
The character animators, world builders, writers, programmers, actors, and conceptual artists---everybody gets together to work the magic. “All these elements have to come together in perfect sync for a scene to work, and when they line up, the whole team cheers. It’s exhilarating,” Fennell says.
Now that we’re working remotely, Fennell says the social dynamic has changed. But the collaborative spirit has not. “Recording during COVID has been a special challenge,” he says, adding that he’s set up a home recording studio to help facilitate the process.
“But the team we have at Ubisoft is really tight-knit, so we’re all working together to keep the magic moving.” Many of Fennell’s performances have been for games produced by Ubisoft, and he says he’s grown with the company since they hired him to voice their playable demo for Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.
“In a weird way, working on video games has kind of turned into a video game,” he laughs.
Perhaps it’s time to drop the prudish old attitude that video games are bad for us. Now, when we can’t leave the house, we’re finally getting a better, more mainstreamed understanding of how gaming can actually be good for our health, our relationships, and our economy.
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