Knowledge Exchange

Erika Yao (Class of 2021)

The Meaning of Gaming

Erika Yao (Class of 2021)

What is the meaning of gaming? Your first reaction is probably to Google it. If you search for “the meaning of gaming” on the internet, you can get all kinds of answers.

The meaning of art is to cultivate sentiment, the meaning of photography is to make the moment eternal, and the meaning of film is to interpret life. There are dozens of articles and many monographs to discuss these various forms of entertainment after each issue. What it means to humans, to society, and to all people. However, when searching for “the meaning of gaming,” the results will confuse most people. The best definition people can come up with is probably about bringing happiness and relaxation. There are definitions that touch on training one’s focus or resolving boredom, and even very abstract definitions like developing “Never Give Up” mentalities. You can see articles such as “How to View the Positive Meaning of the Game,” which seems to prove that “the meaning of gaming lies in something outside gaming.”

So, we try to justify the game itself with gamification, or use functional games to replace entertainment games. I’m not sure about you, but my family is from China where everyone attaches great importance to learning English. I remember playing educational English games with my cousins. It seems like we can only bring meaning to games by embedding a higher pursuit into it. This kind of public opinion environment has given us an illusion: games seem to be a kind of “sinful entertainment, “or “entertainment that should not exist. “In the United States, some people are of the opinion that “games lead to mass shooting, not free holding.”

From the perspective of global history, games do not need substitutes such as “gamification” or “functional games.” Its historical significance is not inferior to any form of entertainment, in fact, it may even be one of the candidates for the greatest contribution to human history among all forms of entertainment.

In 1943, IBM Chairman Watson confidently announced that the entire world only needs 5 computers. He was proved right. Not just during the cold war, where we computational power was key in the military, but all the way through to the 70s. No one wanted to use a computer because they didn’t want to be controlled by computer experts who hold paper tapes, solder circuit boards, and did not understand reality. Officials and senior executives did not believe that they could learn computers, nor did they believe that ordinary people could learn to use computers to transmit data. In 1971, the experiment of bringing portable calculators to households between Intel and Japanese company Busicom ended with Intel buying back all the IP around the calculator chip, at 60k USD. This chip was called Intel 4004, which we now call a CPU.
Also in 1971, Nolan Buschner saw a prototype of a machine called “Odyssey” that used semi-simulation technology. It could project controlled images on a picture tube, which was even better than the text simulations played on large university computers. Machines and space battle simulators were more interesting. He and Ted Barney established a company together, purchased semiconductor components, and started producing this interactive machine that could simulate table tennis. These machines were placed in shopping malls, bars, restaurants, and so on, for people to play with coins. The name of this game machine was “Pong;” the name of this company was Atari. In 1974, the company hired a young technical expert to make a game called “Breakout.” His name was Steve Jobs. People suddenly discovered that semiconductors and integrated circuits could not only be used to make calculators. There was no need to hang onto the price of war calculators, they could also be used to make a fashionable new toy. The invention of games proved that computers did not need experts to promote and use them, even ordinary people could operate them and generate the desire to buy them. From 1942 to 1971, the curse of “normal people cannot master computer technology” was finally broken.

Now, we can come back to the meaning of gaming.  Modern games are commodities that can expand the market on their own and are the driving force of the information revolution. While generating profits, they also generate huge demand for hardware, and a new generation of customers and producers. The production of the latter two is of great significance to society. Video games broke the strangeness and resistance of ordinary people to computers, and gave birth to the first batch of “gamers.” These people had a keen interest in computer technology and personal computers, and a few years later, many of them became the users of the first generation of programmable personal computers, the first generation of commercial computers and software, the next generation successors of Silicon Valley, and even the entrepreneurs of emerging technologies.

Indeed, unlike the 1970s, in the 21st century today, a person may not learn much from games, and it is also difficult to become an information technology practitioner based solely on interest in games. However, if one never plays games then there is a high probability that he has no interest in modern computers, the Internet, and information technology. He will become a Neo-Luddism in the information revolution. The correlation between the two is so obvious that even among my young friends I have to act as an “information technology expert” and help them repair computers, install an application, set up their internet, and other tasks, as I am seen as the ‘gamer.’

Being addicted to games might be a problem, but being a “technical conservative” who has no interest in games at all may be a much more serious restraint. If we want to avoid this situation, we should start by changing the conservative notion that games are evil If movies, television, and science fiction are tools to help humans adapt to the post-industrial era, then games are tools to help humans adapt to the information age.

Among all our modern products, games and gamers are probably the most positive, and the ones that need correct understandings. Gamers do not need to feel ashamed and self-defeating for seeking happiness in the game for themselves. As long as society has the correct guidance, today’s young gamers may become the promoters of industrial digitisation, the practitioners, and users of the information industry in the future. The correct understanding of the meaning of gaming and gamers is not an option, it’s a strategic decision that may involve a very important future.


Pre-MBA Industry: Entertainment
Company: Sparkle Pandas
Job Title: CEO