Tuesday, July 17, 2018
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Bits & Bytes e-zine, Vol2 #3: Jamaica's Gamer Culture

Electronic games! CandyCrush, Farmville, Words with Friends, Zumba, Pacman, Call Of Duty, Marvel Vs. Capcom, Defense Of The Ancients and so much more. Across various platforms - smartphones, tablets, PCs, game consoles and specialized devices. Everyone enjoys them; every day, and sometimes all day. But are they just to pass the time? Do they provide physical exercise? Or do they increase hand-eye coordination or mental agility. When is a game not just a game?

This Isn't Just a Game

The general notion by Jamaicans is that playing video games is best suited as a hobby. People who spend time playing games are often thought to be wasting time, and unproductive. But this view is usually due to the fact that many do that know that it is possible for Jamaicans to make a living by playing video games professionally. So how do you make it a viable career? One way is to record your personal gaming sessions, then upload the videos you make to the internet and get persons to watch your videos. Gamers, whether they play professionally or not, can use the YouTube and Twitch platforms to promote their sessions, and themselves, and get noticed by people and companies, from around the globe, for their skillful gameplay. Once noticed, they may be contacted to continue producing their content for a salary, a share in the advertising revenue made from their videos, or product sponsorships for them to endorse on their user profiles. Some notable examples of organizations that do this are Machinima, PewDiePie and Smosh Games – all YouTube Partners who receive a share of YouTube's advertising revenue.

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(Featured Games on Twitch.tv)

Another way to earn is to "go Pro". As a Professional Gamer, as with any other professional career, you want to be the best. It may start out with being the best among your group of friends in a certain video game but can translate into gainful employment via competitive gaming - "ESports" as it is known globally. Competitive video gaming is a very lucrative career, with professional gamers all around the world making upwards of US$200,000.00 annually to compete in international tournaments (this figure is cited from an article posted by Business Insider on their website on July 15, 2013). A more recent example is single team that took part in, and won, the Call Of Duty Championship, hosted by Major League Gaming, Inc., on March 30, 2014, took home US$1,000,000.00 as the prize. This figure only takes into account gamer appearances at tournaments and matches, and their placing in finalist positions. Also, just like the world's top sports stars and entertainers, pro gamers enjoy the benefits of company and product sponsorships as a source of income.

Just How Big Is The Video Game Industry?

According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the American organization responsible for enforcing operational standards in the video game industry, in 2012 consumers spent US$20.1 billion on video games, gaming hardware and related accessories alone. That's right, billions of dollars being spent on what is considered, locally, as a waste of time. The growth in this industry shows no sign of slowing down, so why not gear the country towards taking advantage of the opportunities in it?

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(DreamHack Gaming Tournament) http://www.dreamhack.se/

If the above figure doesn't impress you, then think about this: every year, around the world, there are tens of thousands of video game related events. At these events organizers must manage sold out stadiums and conference centers in countries such as the United States of America (USA), Canada, London, Germany, France, South Korea and Australia. Major video gaming events include the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Major League Gaming Tournament Series, Evolution Championship Series (Evo), San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), Game Developer Conference (GDC), Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) and Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) tournament. These events are supported by some of the largest companies in entertainment, and the world, such as Electronic Arts, Microsoft and Sony.

The Local Gaming Scene

There are many local computer stores that are involved in video game retail, such as Str8 Games, Watts New, Innovative Superstore and Royale PC & Electronics. There are also some game arcades such as 5:30PM Sports Bar and Grill (formerly Area 51) in Clocktower Plaza in Half-Way Tree, and XPG Video Games in Papine. While you may think that local video game houses don't seem to be turning over a lot of profits, the amount of support the owners of these businesses receive from the hundreds of thousands of local gamers may astound you. Local video gaming firms, such as Bureau of Gamers, are even being noticed internationally by receiving invites by the management teams of events, such as the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) and Gamescom, to participate.

In terms of esports, major initiatives have been launched by two gaming groups, Fighter's Allegiance Jamaica and Bureau of Gamers, to host two major video gaming tournaments ("Mash Di Button" and the "Jamaica ESports Expo" respectively). These events are still small and young, but support for them, and more like them, is definitely growing.

So Why Play Video Games?

That is entirely up to you. You may choose to just kick back after a long day of work, or school, and relax by playing your favourite game. You may even decide to take it a step further and look at your skills in playing certain games as a way to earn a living doing something you really enjoy. Start investing in some video recording and editing software, show off your skills to the world on the internet and prepare yourself for the massive amount of attention you'll get as a skillful gamer. Do the research, look for local and international tournaments, register for them and compete. Or even start your own gaming tournaments and events and take on a more managerial role in the industry. It's your call.

How Do I Get Involved In Video Gaming?

Truth be told, if you have a computer, or even a cell phone (especially a smartphone), you're ready to begin. That is exactly how many local gamers started, by playing Snake or Tetris or Solitaire. Now, you can take your "gaming" a step further by focusing on a gaming console or your personal computer, and spending more time improving your game playing skills. Find like-minded people to play and compete with. Record your gameplay, work hard at getting better in a certain game with a certain character, and make sure to keep a look out for events and opportunities you can take advantage of as a professional gamer.

Are you ready to play? Game on!

By: Brian Lawrence, Founder/Owner of Bureau of Gamers
Reviewed by: Dean Smith President, Jamaica Computer Society

Category: Bits & Bytes