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Video games are a medium that sits at the intersection of entertainment, art, and technology. Considering that video games are a huge industry with over $90 billion in yearly revenues and how the various fields of technology are connected to each other, it makes sense that video games also have an impact on other industries, doesn’t it? So let’s talk about how gaming has expanded beyond its own industry. 

Innovation in hardware 

For starters, video games are a big driver in the computer hardware industry. People who mostly use their computer for working with documents, or for browsing the Internet don’t really need high-end hardware. A decent processor, an okay amount of RAM, and just a few hundred gigabytes of storage is all they need to have their computers working for them. On the other hand, people who use their computer to play games need high-end hardwareto play the latest games. 

These gamers want to play games in the best possible setting, so they demand a GPU that can render their games quickly. This leads to a tight competition between graphic card companies who try their best to produce the most capable GPU at the lowest price possible. 

And it’s not just GPU. Unlike movies with their 24 frames per second, games can have a higher number of frames per second. Because games with a high number of FPS have better animation, hardware makers have started to produce computer monitors with higher refresh rates that can show more frames per second. They’ve also produced auxiliary hardware (i.e. keyboards, etc.) that are more sensitive to user input because competitive gamers really appreciate all the extra precision they can get from their hardware. 

In short, video games have spurred various innovations in computer hardware technology. And it’s simply because those innovations provide users with a better gaming experience. 

One of the interesting parts in this aspect is how the progress looks like a loop. When a game developer produces a video game that requires the most advanced hardware, hardware manufacturers then create better hardware that can render a game more efficiently. Then, game developers notice this additional capability and make sure their next game uses this extra resource, and so on. This endless cycle is the fuel that keeps computer hardware progressing.

Innovation in AI research and technology

Another interesting aspect is how the pursuit of a better GPU has benefitted the research of artificial intelligence. Unlike your usual application, artificial intelligence usually runs their processes in parallel instead of sequentially. Modern day CPU, unfortunately, isn’t really constructed to run hundreds of processes at the same time. On the other hand, GPUs are designed to process multiple pixels at the same time, which makes them the perfect hardware to run artificial intelligence. 

So, thanks to the progress in GPU technology, you don’t need a special workstation to run your artificial intelligence project anymore. You just need to hook an off-the-shelf GPU to your PC and your artificial intelligence is ready to run, making AI research accessible to anyone with a computer. And because video games are a big factor in the progress of graphics hardware, we can say that video games have made an indirect impact in the accessibility of AI technology. 

Innovation in virtual reality and augmented reality

Another field that video games have made an impact on is virtual and augmented reality. One of the reasons that virtual reality and augmented reality are making a comeback in recent years is because consumer graphics hardware is now powerful enough to run VR apps. As you may know, VR apps require hardware that’s more powerful than your usual mainstream computer. Fortunately, gaming computers nowadays are powerful enough to run those VR apps without causing motion sickness. Even Facebook, who isn’t really a gaming company, focuses their VR effort on video games because right now the only computer that can run VR properly is a gaming computer. 

And it’s not just VR and AR. These days, when a new platform is launched, its ability to play video games usually becomes one of its selling points. When AppleTV was launched, its capability to play games was highlighted. Microsoft also had a big showcase using Hololens and Minecraft to demonstrate how the device would work. Video games have become one of the default ways for companies to demonstrate the capabilities of their devices, and to attract more developers to their platform. 

Innovation beyond technology 

The impact of video games isn’t limited to only technological fields. Many have found video games to be an effective teaching and therapeutic tool. For example, soldiers in the army are encouraged to play military shooter games during their off-duty time, so they can stay in a soldier mindset even when they’re not on duty. As for therapy, many studies have found that video games can be a great aid in treating patients with traumatic disorders as well as improving autistic patients’ social skills. 

These fields are just a sample of those that have benefited, and innovated, from the gaming industry. There are still many other fields in which games have made an impact, including: serious games, gamification, simulation, and more. 

About the author 

Raka Mahesa is a game developer at Chocoarts: http://chocoarts.com/, who is interested in digital technology in general. Outside of work hours, he likes to work on his own projects, with Corridoom VR being his latest released game. Raka also regularly tweets as @legacy99. 


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