Digital gaming has always been driven by technological innovation, and has frequently been at the cutting edge of what is technically possible.
The reason for this is, at least in part, unashamedly commercial; the better the technology, the better the gaming experience and the bigger the audience who will buy the product.
So digital gaming has always used innovative technology as a way to reach new audiences.
Early video games generally appealed to the kids who grew up with them; it was almost impossible to convince sceptical members of an older generation that playing Super Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog constituted a worthwhile cultural experience, on a par with reading a book or going to a movie (even though we all knew that it was).
As technology allowed game play to become exponentially more sophisticated however, non-gamers were forced to take them more seriously. More realistic visuals, complex plot development and characterisation, intricate world-building and deeper interaction were all qualities made possible by technology that showed gamers were engaging with a genuine art form. A wider audience started playing as a result.
Not just for boys
These days there are just as many female gamers as male, despite outsiders still stereotyping the industry as ‘toys for boys’. It is true however, that to some extent, male and female players look for different qualities in their gaming experience. Women generally prefer in-game communication and narrative, while men prefer action, combat and first-person shooters.
The technology that allowed massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft and Second Life to exist also gave many girls their first entrance into digital gaming, where they found there was a far wider range of possibilities than just fast thumb-clicks and noisy onscreen explosions.
Since then, gaming technology for mobile devices such as smartphones has further expanded the female audience.
Online casino gaming
Technological advances have also facilitated the rise of online casino-style gaming, which in turn has attracted a wider demographic of digital gamers. Those attracted to online card games and gambling are typically older than the typical video gamer.
They can access a virtual world of familiar games through gateway portals that often offer free betting bonuses, thanks to technological advances in internet connection speed and bandwidth, more sophisticated multimedia plugins, and software that allows secure financial transactions online.
As technology progresses, the divide between the real world and the digital gaming world looks to become increasingly blurred. Near-field Communication technology (NFC) and Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) allow wireless signals from physical objects like buttons, counters or models to create results in the digital game world.
People who previously saw little appeal in playing games while seated in front of a screen will be drawn to the combination of digital gaming and physical action, as has already been seen in the use of Nintendo Wii.
Virtual reality headsets, multi-platform cross-play, streaming of games direct to your TV and the increasing integration of gaming with social media all look set to further widen the audience for this form of entertainment.
Gaming will continue to be driven by technological innovation, with the goal of engaging as broad a demographic as possible.