A Family Affair
Times have changed since Steve Scott first started gaming. As a kid, he loved playing Nintendo and inviting friends over to join him.
While the games and technology have changed, Scott says that the appeal of gaming — for both kids and adults — remains the same.
“At its core, gaming is social. It is a way to connect with other worlds, but also with people around you,” Scott said.
The industry is surging. By 2020, the global video gaming market is expected to be worth more than $90 billion, a rise from $79 billion in 2017. As for the age breakdown of gamers, an estimated 29 percent of gamers in the U.S. are between the ages of 18 and 35, 20 percent are between the ages of 26 and 49, and 23 percent are 50 or older. Gender divides when it comes to gaming are nearing an equivalent point, with 55 percent male and 45 percent female in the U.S. in 2018.
And though mobile games and online technology have made it easier for that growing number of gamers to connect with each other, it has made the hobby more isolated in some ways.
“People don’t really get together in person to play any more. When I was a kid, we went to each other’s houses to play but with online options, that doesn’t happen as much now,” Scott said.
A lack of social interaction is the reason that Scott decided to open Gamers Respawn, a veteran-owned gaming lounge in Palm Bay. Scott co-owns the business with Christopher Blouin.
The lounge offers more than 650 games on dozens of systems, from 30-year-old Ataris to the newest Xbox and Playstation consoles. Rates are hourly or all-day pass. Parents have an area to relax while their kids play if gaming is not their thing.
“We offer a modern arcade,” Scott said. “We really want families interacting here. That’s the main goal.”
Chris Sugarman owns Ready Set Game, a video game and collectible shop in Indian Harbour Beach. His customer base consists of the typical children and teens looking for new games and plenty of nostalgic customers.
“I had a woman in here who saw the Super Nintendo gaming system we are selling and started to cry. Like, real tears. She bought it and a game to play with her little girl,” Sugarman, 33, said.
He likes to see all age groups still coming in to buy physical games to play on consoles or computers, and not just tapping mobile games. Regardless of how people game, he sees more positive than negative in the pastime.
“Gaming is just a fun way to stretch your imagination and in the right context, to meet new people,” Sugarman said. “That’s what I love about gaming culture. It transcends so many other factors and brings people together.”
Everything in Moderation
Studies abound that lament the rise in screen time among kids and adults — attributed at least in part to gaming on consoles, PCs and mobile devices. Recent research is revealing a more positive approach to gaming, though, at least in moderation.
Video gaming can improve problem-solving skills, coordination, memory and multitasking, according to an emerging body of research. A report from the February issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that those benefits are generally contained to one hour per day.
“Visual attention is crucial to preventing sensory overload, since the brain is constantly faced with an overwhelming amount of visual information,” lead author Bjorn Hubert-Wallander said in the report.
Michelle Lawson remembers playing console video games with her two older brothers.
“Back then you had to blow on the cartridges if they glitched,” Lawson, 30, said. “We played Duck Hunt, Super Mario Bros. and those types of games.”
When she was a student at Eau Gallie High School, Lawson said her interest for video games led her to join the school’s Computer Club where she got involved in video game building.
“Those were some of the best memories I have from high school,” she said.
Now a married mom of three, Lawson says she enjoys connecting her video game past with her present — along with husband, David Lawson, and kids Jayden, 9, Arianna, 5, and Isabella, 1.
A few years ago, Lawson and her family got really into the augmented reality mobile game Pokemon Go. Through online networking, they were able to make new friends who shared gaming interests.
“It is a really fun way to keep in touch and spend family time,” Lawson said.
While video gaming can get a bad rap, Lawson says in her household the keys are moderation and togetherness.
“Kids can learn so many great qualities like patience, good sportsmanship, teamwork, and critical thinking from video games,” Lawson said.
Chris King, 42, of Suntree has been gaming since elementary school. He started with an Atari system and says he has owned pretty much every gaming system since, with his latest purchase an Xbox One.
“I remember that Christmases when a new console had just come out were the best ones,” King said. “No matter how many gaming systems I have, I always want the next one.”
The King family of four like to game together and even have a dedicated gaming room at home. Norah King, 12, enjoys playing alongside her parents.
“It’s fun when we all play Mario Kart together,” Norah King said. “It is something we can all do and enjoy.”
The family has attended video game and science-fiction conferences like MegaCon, and three of the four family members dressed as video game characters for Halloween.
Louverture Jones, 39, of Satellite Beach loves competition. His sons Achaia, 13, Asa, 6, and Avan, 3, stay active in sports to feed their own inherited competitive traits. Video games fill that space at home.
“I am the quintessential jock but I always enjoyed role-playing video games, like Zelda, as a kid,” Jones said. “I always felt like video games connected people with different interests, and that they definitely have that potential now.”