Video games: A whole new level of pop culture
The rise of video games and their influence on modern pop culture has created new communities and channeled unforgettable characters.

Bling! Bling! Zap! Zap! Pew pew pew!

Sound familiar? 

Since the 1970s, video games have been a popular form of entertainment among children, teens, and young adults. While typically more popular with men, recently, video games have seen an increase in popularity among both men and women. With the rise of social media and stars like Vinnie Hacker who live stream themselves playing video games on platforms like Twitch, gaming has become widely accepted in popular culture.

Video games are an extremely accessible form of entertainment. Whether you are looking to kill time, or to spend a few hours connecting with friends, there is no shortage of options. Most video games are also relatively inexpensive, with many games being available for free. Websites such as Steam are excellent for gaming—with a wide variety of games available for download, the website serves as a perfect platform for experienced and inexperienced gamers alike.

The competitive nature of video games adds to their popularity. Games such as Tetris (1984) or Pac-Man (1980) display high scores in bold and captivating numbers. The listing of these achievements appeals to competitive gamers looking to improve their gaming skills, attain the highest score on their console, and engage in some friendly competition with fellow gamers.

The quality of art, graphics, sound effects, and music are also critical. Video games with better graphics and art are more enjoyable. A game with captivating sound effects and a catchy soundtrack keeps the gamer more focused and engaged. For first-person shooter games such as Doom or Call of Duty, quality audio design is crucial for gamers to get into the perspective of the character that they are playing as and to feel like they are actually in the game. 

The importance of good audio and visual design can be appreciated in games such as Hades—one of my favourite video games. In Hades, the gamer plays the role of Zagreus, the son of Hades, on his quest to escape the Underworld with the help of Olympians such as Aphrodite, Zeus, Poseidon, and Athena. The game features detailed graphics of the characters and landscapes, and the soundtrack creates a more immersive gaming experience. Hades has won several awards for its design, including the 2021 BAFTA Games Award for ‘Best Game’, and the 2021 New York Game Awards’ prizes for ‘Game of the Year,’ ‘Best Music,’ ‘Best Writing,’ and ‘Best Acting.’

Memorable characters and storylines are important for a video game’s popularity. When there is a well-written storyline, it keeps the player more engaged and motivated to achieve the game’s main objective and to seek the end of its story. Additionally, well-curated characters make the game more recognizable and help to drive the game’s plot line. A perfect example of this is the Mario video game franchise—characters such as Mario and Luigi are easily recognizable in their quest to rescue Princess Peach.

Video games with unforgettable characters and plots are influential in pop culture as people can easily identify common references and phrases. For example, the ability for players and non-players alike to recognize Pokémon allows people to become part of in-person and online communities, purchase branded merchandise, and to connect over shared interests brought on by its title. 

The popularity of video games inspires many other forms of art and media. Many people create and share fan-art of their favourite video games on Instagram and TikTok. Die-hard fans will sometimes dress up as their favourite characters for meetups, conventions, or just for fun.

With video games being such a critical part of pop culture, there is no shortage of video game communities and gaming content on social media. Whether your game of choice is Tetris or Call of Duty, it’s easy to connect over one of today’s most popular and entertaining pastimes.

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