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In the rapidly evolving world of media and pop culture, one player has levelled up its game in recent years – and no, we’re not talking about a hidden boss level. We’re referring to the world of gaming, which has transformed from a niche pastime to a cultural titan.

On the next episode of the ‘FUNK !T Podcast’, we dive deep into this shift, looking at gaming through the lens of key communication theories. In doing so, we hope to understand not just the ‘what’ but the ‘why’ behind gaming’s meteoric rise.

Cultivating the Game

Cultivation theory is a communication theory that suggests the more we’re exposed to something in media, the more normalized it becomes in our everyday lives. With 3 billion gamers worldwide, gaming isn’t just mainstream, it’s a foundational pillar of contemporary entertainment. We can see the effects of cultivation theory clearly in gaming’s takeover.

Franchises such as ‘Call of Duty’ or ‘Minecraft’ have become ingrained in our culture. Even those who have never played these games would likely recognize their names or characters. Such is the power of cultivation. Gaming, once a part-time hobby for a small crowd, has cultivated a massive audience, making it a media powerhouse on par with movies and sports.

Learning from the Pixels

Next, we explore social cognitive theory, which suggests we learn behaviors through observing others. In the context of gaming, it is not just about playing the game, but observing how others – particularly influencers and celebrities – play them.

Take, for example, Ariana Grande’s performance in Fortnite. This was more than just a concert; it was a symbolic statement that gaming is a cool, worthwhile activity. Celebrities and influencers embracing gaming validates and promotes it further, contributing to its rise in popular culture.

Why We Play

Finally, we delve into uses and gratifications theory. This theory focuses on how people use media to satisfy various needs, and it’s highly relevant to the gaming community.

Gaming isn’t just about mindless fun. It provides players with a sense of achievement, social belonging, and entertainment. For younger audiences especially, gaming serves a social purpose, fulfilling their emotional needs. This also explains why gaming has such a wide appeal and growing influence.

The New Age of Celebrity

We can’t talk about gaming’s rise without mentioning its impact on celebrity culture. Gaming streamers like Ninja have become celebrities in their own right, with follower counts that rival traditional movie stars. Brands are scrambling to collaborate with these new-age celebrities, hoping to tap into their powerful influence over younger demographics.

Hollywood has also recognized this shift, with movie reboots like Sonic and Mortal Kombat hoping to capitalize on gaming nostalgia. However, this does raise questions – do these reimagined characters hold the same appeal without their original pixelated charm?

Gaming’s Dance with Music

Music and gaming have also found harmony. Fortnite has transformed into a virtual concert paradise, hosting artists like Ariana Grande and Travis Scott. These in-game concerts are mutually beneficial. They allow artists to connect with younger crowds who prefer gaming to traditional concert venues, and they rack up significant views for both the musicians and game developers.

Even outside of virtual concerts, the music industry is becoming more intertwined with gaming culture. Rap songs are dropping gaming references and artists are releasing in-game skins.

Let’s Reflect

Gaming’s ascent to cultural dominance isn’t without its challenges. Issues of creativity, addiction, and more are critical discussions that need to be had. As we consume and enjoy gaming, it’s important to also think critically about its impact.

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