From Arcade Halls to Esports Arenas: The Evolution of the Gaming Experience in the UK

As with most other digital technologies, the world of video games has changed dramatically over the past few decades, from the eight bit, two dimensional platformers of the 1980s to the fully immersive, hyper realistic games we play today. 

Despite those generational developments, many fixtures of gaming culture have remained unchanged across the decades, whether because of basic human nature or because of the enduring allure of those early classics. Here’s a look at the history and evolution of video gaming in the United Kingdom, from the early moments to the present day… and a hint of what’s yet to come.

A Sense of Gaming Community: the More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Before the advent of SEGA and Nintendo’s consoles made it possible for anyone to play video games from the comfort of their own home, arcade halls were the place to be, with people lining up for a chance at their favorite machines, hoping for a chance at pixelated immortality by securing their three letter nicknamed place atop the high score leaderboards. 

Given the highly social nature of these electronic communes, it’s hilarious to think about the reputation of gamers as some sort of antisocial counterculture: playing alongside or competing against others has always been a major part of the pastime. Well before the era of the Internet, before gamers could Google a cheat code to get past a tricky boss battle or figure out how to access a secret ending or Easter egg, a rich grassroots culture of rumors and tips existed—much of it fake, but some very accurate—“my cousin’s boyfriend’s brother heard that you can do so and so” and things of that nature. If you wanted to learn a cheat code or figure out a boss battle’s weakness, you’d have to figure it out through trial and error or even buy a walkthrough in book form.

Indeed, that sort of thing persisted into the early days of the internet, with online forums and FAQs providing a network of support and community for gamers all over the world. Before online gaming made it possible for friends and family to help one another out in their quest to beat a particularly challenging level, you would have to wait weeks or even months to meet up in person and try your luck. 

It’s fascinating to see how these cultural elements have persisted throughout the years. Our interconnected world means that everything happens much faster than it used to, but in many ways the cultural heart of the gaming industry remains the same.

The New Era: Online, Multiplayer and a Sign of Things to Come

While there are still plenty of thriving single player games these days, gaming with friends is the name of the game for most. It’s a great way to socialize without the need for being physically present, bridging long distances and making it possible to nurture old ties or foster new ones. 

I’ve already explained at length the way that gaming culture remains unchanged, so here’s a look at possible new additions to the industry. One that’s of particular interest to me is the potential for integrating esports into the world of mobile gambling. The thriving sports betting industry has shown that people will bet on pretty much anything if they’re given the opportunity to do so, and many Betting Sites in the UK are trying to take advantage of that fact, lobbying to include video games and esports under the sports betting label.

Most multiplayer games already have a framework in place to determine who the best players are, compiling statistical categories that rank anybody who’s taken part in a certain amount of matches.

From there, adding the potential to bet on the proceedings is a logical next step. Even more interesting is the fact that video gamers aren’t limited by the same physical demands that traditional professional athletes are. Streamers like Ninja and Nickmercs play video games for ten or more hours a day, treating it like their nine-to-five and taking part in hundreds of matches. 

They don’t have to worry about blowing their knee out from overuse—although carpal tunnel syndrome is incredibly painful nonetheless—and the frequency of their work schedule means more opportunities to place bets than a traditional sports league could ever dream of.

The potential for betting on esports is still in its infancy, but we’ve seen the industry make meteoric jumps over the past few years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it expand even further in the coming years, especially with pertinent legislation already getting workshopped.