Technology is changing the way that people live, work and play. In fact, game play is one of the most popular pastimes to engage in online as a great many people consider playing games to be their primary source of online entertainment. Individuals who take interest in the field of virtual communication or games are probably well aware that online games are playing an increasingly major role in society. Interestingly, online games span all boundaries, from social games such as “Farmville”, to games that are intended for single-player use like “Solitaire”. Some games like “World of Warcraft” create entire other-worldly realms in which to engage players visually, mentally, and even emotionally.
The availability of online games as both social and solitary hobbies mirrors offline games such as “tag” and “hide and seek” or the single-player “hop-scotch” and “hula-hoop.” Some games, like jump-rope, can be multi-player or single player and most online games allow the option of single or multi-play in order to appeal to a wider variety of people. Although the option to play a game alone and have some “me time” is hugely popular among many people, multi-player games were required for traditional board games since such games were generally used as a means of socialization as well as entertainment.
Once television became widely available, televised game shows became popular and most were directly inspired by board games. One of the first game show, “What’s My Line?” began in 1950 and ran on CBS until 1967 and then in first run syndication from 1968 to 1975. Since then, game shows have exploded in popularity on television. In 1994, the “Game Show Network” was established and is dedicated to airing game shows from varying time periods and thus introducing them to new and generally younger audiences. For example, when it first launched, GSN began airing the original network episodes of “What’s My Line?” which had not been seen since their original broadcasts. The show remains GSN’s oldest title on air.
Even as the Internet increasingly replaces television as the main way to achieve communication and entertainment, the Game Show Network, now known as GSN, continues to evolve. GSN is a cable network dedicated to games and is available to over 75 million households. In addition, GSN is rapidly expanding and a great deal of that expansion is taking place online via its GSN Digital division. GSN Digital offers games that can be accessed via mobile devices, the GSN.com website, and on social media websites (the Games by GSN app is currently the largest multi-games portal on Facebook). As the world of games expands so does the opportunity for learning and fun and that is what makes this aspect of virtual reality so particularly interesting and GSN is playing a major role.
Peter Blacklow, EVP of GSN Digital and president of World Winner was kind enough to grant an interview to discuss the digital sector of GSN and the future of the organization. Mr. Blacklow explained that the digital branch of GSN deals mostly with “casual games” such as word games, card games, and arcade games that give players the option of playing for fun or competing against others for cash. The company also offers casino games like video bingo and virtual slots, in which players wager virtual tokens in a fun, entertaining environment.
GSN has many popular games and tournaments. According to Mr. Blacklow, game contests like Bingo are a huge success. Additionally, GSN operates a points system known as “Oodles,” which rewards players for engaging with the Web site. Players earn Oodles in a variety of ways, such as landing on game leaderboards, correctly answering trivia questions and matching one or more numbers in the hourly GSN ChaChingo Bingo drawing. Players can redeem their Oodles for sweepstakes entries and real prizes on the GSN website. Thus, the entire GSN website operates like a game. Furthermore, micro-transactional tournaments and prizes are popular incentives for users and thus they are systems that are well incorporated into the workings of GSN. Yet the game show theme is still a staple of the GSN brand. Although very few people will ever have the chance to appear on a televised game show, GSN.com gives users the chance to play games and feel like actual contestants. Therefore each and every user is given the chance to experience fun and excitement that otherwise might not be possible and this is an experience that the GSN company prides itself on being able to deliver digitally.
According to GSN statistics, 60% of the users of its online players are females aged 35-55. A slightly younger female demographic makes up the majority of mobile players and older females tend to tune into the televised game shows. Even more interesting, there is a known cult following of GSN among college-age individuals. Most people report getting interested in GSN by either watching old game shows on the GSN TV channel or finding the games portal on sites such as Facebook. This suggests that GSN offers content that is useful to both genders and nearly all age groups.
Games have also been proven to have beneficial results for working adults. Research studies from the University of Rochester determined that people who played online games showed better offline visual and concentration skills. Also a recent survey of GSN players showed 80% of respondents who reported occasionally playing games at work felt that taking a short game break actually improved the quality of their work. Of those, 60% claimed that they only spent a half an hour or less playing games, proving that short game breaks (usually on the Internet) are generally used as a preemptor to completing assigned tasks. Hence, being allowed to take a game break at work might actually increase employee satisfaction. This could also apply to children’s learning processes. These findings might help to explain the vast success of the GSN game portal on Facebook.
Games allow people the opportunity to have fun and are therefore highly regarded as being emotionally and educationally beneficial. There are many games on the market (both televised and material) that mix entertainment and education. Additionally, reward-based learning has also been proven successful in many cases and educational games can provide that award experience. Since being entertained leads to more focus and engagement in lesson content, games can be very beneficial to education, as has been proven by companies like Luminosity.
Currently, GSN has no platform for children’s games. However, games such as “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” are good for general viewing and can thus be enjoyed by people of all ages. For young children, SesameStreet.org and PBS.org offer games that are specifically educational but GSN games can also be good for one’s cognition. According to Mr. Blacklow, GSN does not intentionally set out to be educational, aiming rather for purely entertainment purposes. Yet there have been occasions where the educational benefits of games have been attributed to GSN offerings. Mr. Blacklow recounted two cases of GSN games being used as educational tools. One woman reported that she taught her children math by having them watch “Catch 21.” Likewise, a grandmother said “Lingo” helped improve her grandchildren’s spelling skills. Hence, the merging of GSN games and online learning might be inevitable.
The future is everything in the ever-expanding world of technology and so new ideas are essential to growth. Presently, there are many people who wish to develop games for digital platforms. As technology makes it easier for people to reach out to companies and offer freelance work, the way that games are founded and promoted changes. For example, the website “Kongregate” is considered to be the YouTube for gamers where many want-to-be game makers share their work and display their talents. It is possible that soon GSN will offer opportunities for enterprising young game creators that allow them to share their creations with GSN followers.
The brain is an organ that needs exercise. Games like crossword puzzles, chess and Sudoku have long been judged to keep one’s mind “sharp.” However, there has also been an air of folk myth to the idea that games could actually help the mind stay physiologically healthy. Thus, when people said that they were “keeping their minds sharp” others were not truly certain that the games were actually having any effect on the player’s mind. Now, however, there have been scientific breakthroughs which make it clear that games do indeed exercise the mind and this absolutely helps memory. Although not everyone will be keen to sign onto a website to boost their cognitive powers, it is certainly worth noting that the merits of games are being recognized by professionals in the field of brain science. A quick Google search will offer options to explore numerous websites that include brain games appropriate for all ages. It is important that we exercise mentally as well as physically and having fun while keeping our minds alert is a good incentive. GSN helps people achieve such mental success and therefore surely has a promising future ahead.
For more information (or games!) visit: http://www.gsn.com/