When the first home video game, Pong, appeared in 1972, its creators had little idea that video gaming would become such an integral part of mainstream popular culture. It has moved from being a niche, sub-culture pursuit to a multi-billion dollar mainstream entertainment industry that, since the 1990s, has begun to rival both Hollywood and the music business in its widespread commercial appeal.
The rise of video game consoles has been extraordinary, as is their reach and appeal. No longer is video gaming the sole preserve of adolescent boys — research in the US shows that the average age for a video game player is 37 and that 71% of people aged from 6 to 49 regularly play video games, of whom 58% are male and 42% female.
This would suggest that the transformation from niche to mainstream is complete. One reason for this is that video games have now expanded into a wider variety of genres — think of the games available on Wii, or the universal popularity of Angry Birds. Similarly, new video games now get film premiere-style attention on their release—when Call of Duty: Black Ops was released in November 2012; it grossed $450 million worldwide on its first day and made news headlines around the globe.
As video gaming is now a part of everyday life for millions of people, a two-way exchange is taking place; video games frequently reference popular culture — movies, music, leading brands, etc. — while Hollywood sources ideas and genres directly from video games. From the 1993 film Super Mario Brothers, to the Tomb Raider film starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft to Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil, the movie industry has sought to cash in on the universal popularity of video games.
There is similarly a strong link between the world of video games, and other online industries. One online industry that has particularly embraced video games is online gaming, with casinos frequently adapting popular video games as themes for their online slot games.
Online gaming software companies recognise that players of online slots enjoy games with familiar themes, and that this is also a way of attracting new players to their casinos. Popular films, television shows and comics have been adopted as themes for online slots, but the most successful area has been the adaptation of video game franchises, such as Tomb Raider, Hitman and Call of Duty.
Tomb Raider is perhaps the most successful example of a multi-platform concept that started life as a smash hit video game (see this Gamespot review) and has been adapted into an online slot. The appeal of the game stems from the popularity of the Lara Croft character, the use of images and symbols directly from the game, and the innovative bonus rounds that recreate in detail the look and feel of the original film (see this good review of the Tomb Raider video slot).
Hitman is another good example of an online slot that has clearly been designed to attract fans of video gaming. It is one of the most elaborate online slots around, and features menacing CGI graphics and violent imagery, while the bonus rounds closely resemble the original video games.
Adaptations of video games have become popular as online slots, because when online gaming developers, such as Microgaming, Playtech and Net Entertainment, acquire the rights to a video game, they are then able to exactly reproduce its motifs, characters, sounds and music. This means the game appeals to their existing player base by being engaging and entertaining like the original video game, whilst new players are attracted by the game’s theme. Themed online slots are generally the most innovative and imaginative video slots, and have the most complex gameplay, because they need to match the expectations of an audience immersed in video games.
This influence of video games on online gaming is another example of the crossover video games have made from niche market to mainstream appeal; they’re no longer a minority activity engaged in only by teenagers, but rather a powerful and important part of mainstream popular culture, appealing to a broad and varied audience, and which can be considered one of the most successful parts of the worldwide entertainment industry.
Our thanks to CasinoSafari for their help in producing this article.