Such powerful attraction generates equally powerful demand. In order to meet the demands of a booming market, buffered by a cultural explosion, the gaming industry took the sacred space of gaming into the homes and living rooms of the western world throughout the course of the seventies and early eighties. This innovation impacted dramatically on the developing market for games, the shady teenager infested arcades and all of their gaudy neon and unsavoury reputations, were subsumed into the home, as a generation grew up for the first time with computer games. The sacred communal game space was overridden by domestic dynamics of the family, bringing gaming into the realm of the family.
Though the argument has been made that the history of computer games is a history of technology, and by that token that technology informs cultural development. It is however in the human desire for social play that the antithesis of this statement becomes apparent. From this point of view it can be seen that human social and competitive nature was equally powerful in shaping the developing culture of gaming, the demand creating a market, and the market investing in technology to meet the demand.
The mobile phone, a device that changed the nature of human communication, used by all ages in every part of the developing world, opened up gaming to a whole new demographic. By piggy backing the utility of the mobile phone game companies and publishers had found both an abundant new market and medium. It is fitting then perhaps, that if our inclination to play is rooted in social need, that we can play games upon the device we use to communicate with.
Between 1996 and 1997 there was a huge jump from fifteen online casino websites to 200, and by 1998 earned 830million dollars world-wide. While games for adults were by no means a new phenomenon at this point, the nature in which the game was interacted with was revolutionary and by all evidence highly lucrative and pervasive. In place of the act of purchasing games permanently, pay to play became the model of this new innovation. Where once you paid cash to receive a real world piece of technology, here we see the beginnings of the micro-transaction. The fiat currency of the credit card and the first game Virtual Economies offered alternative new business practises to replace the pilgrimage. An a la carte pilgrimage if you will, opt in or out as much as you are willing to pay for, subverting the notion of play for the sake of play with gambling disguised as innocent fun.
Subverting the idea of “pay to play” into time based subscriptions, has in a way attempted to maintain the pilgrimage of purchase, by maintaining the separation of real world financial needs and in game experience. The user is presented with a virtual “store” with which to trade with the company directly, thus removing the middle man, and making the source the destination of the pilgrimage. But does this change in the nature of our interaction with games? Does abstracting their monetary value and divorcing ourselves from physical possession of a thing undermine our value of it?