Growing Up with Gaming

by Jan Bojko - Head of Market Research, Activision Blizzard Media on Apr 15, 2021

Every few years, I stumble across the meme of a young boy opening presents on Christmas Day. He tears the wrapping off of one, unveiling a video game console while screeching in delight “NINTENDO SIXTY-FOOOOUUUUUURRRRR!!!”. Gets me every time. 

I was lucky enough to receive a gaming console for my fifth birthday. Three decades on, I can recall the exact store we bought it from, who I was with, how I felt, even the weather that day. Ask me what I had for dinner last night and you’ll be met with a thousand-yard stare while I contemplate the essence of time.

Hanging in the arcade in 1994 (age 6)

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It opens a portal, taking us back to when things were simpler, more carefree, more fun. Those little moments of comfort we seek that turn the corners of our mouths into a smile when we awaken from our blissful reminiscence. These instances of escape are golden and we clutch at the chance to chase that feeling. Now more than ever, we are searching for these moments to find comfort and familiarity in a world that is increasingly uncertain.

I’m not the only one yearning for these powerful memories. We live in a sea of endless entertainment, largely dominated by sequels, remakes, remasters, and director’s cuts. There’s a reason they’re so popular. The appetite for classic experiences is insatiable. What’s exciting for me is the way these memories are reimagined and reconstructed in a way that makes sense for today.

And we as Millennials buy these reimagined memories every time with our wallets freely open because they provide value to us through the emotional connection established in our youth. We have the means to purchase things we couldn’t as kids, but not the time we once had to play them. So when we do find an hour free between work, exercise, friends, or family obligations, we better be darn certain we’re going to enjoy ourselves.

New video games for my 12th birthday (2000)

I’m not alone here. Activision Blizzard Media surveyed over 20,000 gamers last year and found that Millennials have a deep connection to gaming, listing more motivational drivers to play than other generational cohorts.

  • 80% feel successful with overcoming obstacles in video games, tapping into the competitive and self-improvement psyche
  • 73% enjoy the story provided by games, using it as a mechanism to escape into a carefully crafted narrative
  • Most interestingly for me, 54% identify with gaming characters, seeing something of themselves and their own struggles personified in digital code

Us Millennials are loyal to these franchises for a reason, many reasons in fact, and this loyalty ensures our continued investment in the games we love.While there’s some healthy cynicism around sequels and remakes, I simply see my generational peers creating meaning from their own nostalgia. The gamer in me thinks back to playing Crash Bandicoot with Chris from across the street. He may be a level designer now. Or an artist. Or a studio exec. Maybe he’s drawing upon those memories we share, realizing he can take us back to those couch co-op days, or facilitate new gaming experiences for his own children.

We’re torn between known comforts and what’s new. Luckily for us, we can have our cake and eat it too. I can’t wait to tear open my present of Diablo II: Resurrected later this year, but I’m just as excited for how Diablo Immortal and Diablo IV will innovate in the genre. Until then, excuse me while I search for the floppy disk with my Diablo II save file.

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