If you can play games, you can get paid. Believe it. Video gaming is way beyond the arcade, dark basements and dorm rooms. It's gone mainstream and big time. Don't get me wrong, it still includes your dungeon-dwelling, code-crunching roommate. But it's bigger and broader than ever. This is thanks to the leadership of hardware brands like Xbox, PlayStation, Wii, and Alienware. And let's not forget the games themselves like Guitar Hero, Rock Band or the online MMO (that's massively multiplayer online) virtual economies like World of Warcraft.
If you have a good understanding of how and why video games work and what they mean to their cultures, we are more valuable to most marketing, design, advertising, technology and software companies than people that don't know such things.
Video games have defined the culture of the last two generations (with another swiftly on the way). For more than 30 years, our culture has been reprogrammed to play differently with machines. It has taught us to expect more from our entertainment, more interaction, more feedback, more options, etc. To understand pop culture and technology culture, you have to understand video games and the people who love to play them.
The video games industry has over $50 billion in annual worldwide revenue and drives a number of additional technologies, hardware, and service purchases by savvy tech buyers who play games. And the video gaming industry is growing in double digits annually, while music and movies decline into negative numbers. The biggest reason, or differentiator seems to be the preference of "interactive" over "passive" forms of entertainment.
This type of growth has spawned many new elements to video gaming, including movie deals, merchandize and mainstream endorsements, like Warcraft characters in Mountain Dew commercials or pro gamers from the Major League Gaming Pro Circuit landing on Dr. Pepper bottles. In fact pro gamers and their leagues and teams are rapidly expanding into many fans' favorite "sport" to watch and follow. And sponsors are paying attention.
At ASTRO, we're living this explosion first hand via a unique relationship with Major League Gaming (MLG). Our first product is the ASTRO A40 Headset, currently the official headset of the MLG Pro Circuit for two years running, where designing for the pro environment we've had a front row seat to the emergence of the profession.
Much like any serious, professional sport, these gamers want the best performance equipment, so we spent time developing products that solved some of their communication and audio issues, while improving the sport and giving the players the most superior product possible. And this directly helps them win, translating into making more prize money, salaries and sponsor endorsements. That's right, it's now feasible to become a pro video gamer, making a good living on the way to international fame with millions of gaming fans connected and watching around the world.
In fact, earlier this year the World Cyber Games attracted over 29 million online for the their final event. The MLG attracts half a million viewers online direct and via ESPN.com for every tournament on the pro circuit.
Like many great youth-driven activities, video gaming has exploded into its own, culturally impacting many aspects of all our popular and professional lives. Some of the influences are brash and direct, some more patient and subtle. But if you take the time to understand video gaming, it can advance your career to the next level—and keep you entertained you along the way.
Brett Lovelady is the founder and driving force at ASTRO Studios of San Francisco, a company he launched in 1994. Brett created ASTRO to be a pure design culture, where he and his talented crew could blend design skills, innovative technologies and lifestyle influences into high impact, supercharged products and brands.
Within a short time, ASTRO has become an international design powerhouse by designing industry leading products and brands for companies like Nike, Microsoft, HP, Alienware, Herman Miller, Xbox, Virgin and many more. Also, Brett and ASTRO recently spun-off a new company called ASTRO Gaming, providing high performance video gaming equipment for pro gamers.
In the past decade, ASTRO has won numerous design and industry awards, including 2 prestigious BusinessWeek/IDSA Design of the Decade Awards, for both NIKE Triax Sportwatches and Kensington Smartsockets and was featured as one of Fast Company's Fast 50 in 2003. Prior to starting ASTRO, Brett did time as VP of Design at Lunar Design and before that VP of Design at Frog Design on the mean streets of the San Francisco bay area.