Press Start and Play! Decoding Digital Gaming and Media Culture

Photo by Alexander Kovalev from Pexels
Photo by Alexander Kovalev from Pexels

Can Video Games be Useful?

A question that has always fascinated me, since 1997, while I underwent my basic vocabulary lessons from video games like Warcraft, Red Alert, Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall, Dungeons & Dragons, Tomb Raider etc.

Despite scores of criticisms from all sections of society, various research studies in gaming have revealed that human brains release the three popular happy chemicals namely Dopamine, Endorphins and Serotonin, whenever a player is actively engaged in playing a game. This helps in releasing stress, a factor also reportedly responsible for game addiction.

However, despite criticisms, gaming is just like other entertainment media and has both its pros and cons. Video gaming has irrefutably become an inevitable part of our modern media culture, with billions of players actively playing games across the world, with most players belonging to the age group above 18 years.  

Gaming has a lot of new things to teach us and we have a lot to discover within the realm of video gaming technology, due to their potentials in an immersive experience and instant feedback mechanisms. For me personally, video games helped me to learn new words and understand different phrases, puns and metaphors and expressions during school days. 

While on the other hand, studies have showcased that many games have been used in the education of science, history, geography and other complicated subjects to school children. Popular video game IPs like Total War series, Assassins Creed series, Metal Gear Solid and other franchises have taught players about the history and geopolitical concepts. 

Interactive games have paved the path towards gamification. New apps available on the app store are built using principles of gamification and involves elements like user progression and rewards, such as earning a digital token or a discount coupon. Google Pay, is known to have shown us a popular example of a mini-game titled ‘Travel India’, within its app where users were guided by the app to digitally travel different places on the Indian map and gain digital rewards and virtual scratch cards.

Digital gaming has evolved and continues to grow with AR and VR applications and some of them are more or less successful. Gaming is used by many popular brands to convey their ideas and engage, retain and reward their customers. Interactive entertainment makes your customers feel special and can add on to the way you communicate. It all depends on how well you can showcase interactive content, which is easy to understand and engage with.

What Makes Gaming Multi-faceted?

Digital games are multi-faceted, one as a storytelling medium and another as a two-way communication medium. Imagine, the childhood story of the ‘Thirsty Crow’, where you as the player get to not only watch the animated story but also the choice to play the character of the crow and choose what to do, to further unfold the story. 

Thus, digital games can also be effective storytelling and story experiencing mediums. It is a multi-disciplinary medium and even shares many production aspects used in Animation Films, Drama and Film Making, further coupled with programming.

Games can have characters, emotions, story, music, epic climax, action scenes etc. as evident in popular platform games available on Xbox and PS devices. Moreover, mobile gaming itself is becoming a very potential medium for advertising and brand recall, popular examples include PUBG and Ludo King. Depending upon the complexity of the game content, games can be experienced in different devices such as computers, mobile, tablets, and also specific platforms such as Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo, Dreamcast etc.

How are Video Games Created?

Earlier video games were created using primitive programming language-based platforms. However, with the continuous evolution of computing technology, video games have become more complex right from dot-matrix style graphics to 2D and then to 3D games. Modern games are created using a mix of animation, visual graphics, 2D graphics and 3D modelling software coupled with a very specific software known as ‘Game Engine.'

Game engines are specialized software made to bring various elements of a game into one place and bring them to life. They work based on real-world principles of physics and define the purpose of every element and object used in the game world. Some of them are available for free e.g. Unity, Godot, while some are available as paid or subscribed software that can be purchased online e.g. Frostbite, Game Maker etc. 

Overview of Digital Gaming Industry :

Video games are played worldwide with billions of players who spend hours playing a game on various game consoles. Billions of players are glued to their consoles and are actively consuming game content. Game consoles include personal computers based on Windows operating system, Xbox, PlayStation, GameCube, Gameboy, Nintendo and also Mobile phone devices based on Android and iOS operating systems.

The video game became mainstream in US and European markets with 7th generation hardware being introduced in the market ever since 2005. 

In India, mobile app downloads have made their benchmark in 2015 with 50 million game downloads and ever since the numbers have been going up each year. Game apps like Garena, PUBG, Teen Patti, and Ludo King gained millions of followers. Indian mobile game downloads for both Google Play store and iOS play store is ranked almost near to US, UK and in turn, followed by Brazil and South Africa. 

India has recorded 7.3 billion installs of mobile games in 2020 during the period of pandemic lockdown. Today, the Indian video gaming industry is valued to be around 1.1 billion USD. Google reports suggest that around 60% of India’s online game players belong to the youth population between the 18-24 age brackets.

Indian youth players have access to play online games through smartphones and are credited to be one of the most critical factors of rising mobile game downloads and recreational gaming. Moreover, the availability of internet infrastructure and affordability of mobile and computing devices has led to the rise in the popularity of competitive gaming and E-sports culture. 

Most game entries found on the play store are free-to-play game apps, which are monetized through in-game ads or in-game purchase features. An estimated rise of 310 million online gamers in India will take place by the end of 2021 as per data gathered by the Indian government.  

The Future of Digital Gaming in India 

Although, it may take a while for Indian companies to realize the full potential of gaming, digital gaming, becoming a part of normal routine is undeniable. The biggest advantage in India is the rising number of game development companies and a massive target audience active in mobile gaming. Realizing this potential, there is a rise in both domestic and foreign investments being provided for competitive game content.

Foreign-based hyper-casual game publishers are moving to India to seek game developers, who can build high performing hyper-casual mobile games that can take over the play store by storm. Game giants such as UBI Soft, Rockstar Games, Epic Games and Unity Technologies have already made their investments in India and are partnering up with independent game developers and helping them to get their games published.

Various other game publishers are also helping independent game developers by providing marketing and business development support through partnership models. Mobile gaming has received a favourable audience in India and thus shows good potential for startup game studios. Game-based marketing and promotion and gamification will possibly become the trend in post-pandemic India in sectors of Edtech, OTT, E-commerce, Digital Entertainment etc.


Prof. Rajat Bandopadhyay,
SOMC, Adamas University.

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