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Video games have certainly come a long way since Pong. The graphics have become a lot better, mechanics have become more complex, and gameplay has become much more elaborate. But, it isn’t just the technical aspect that has improved. Video games have also become more complex from a story-telling perspective. The evolution of gaming has prompted many to ask a simple question; Are video games still just children’s entertainment.

The History of Gaming

Before we answer that question, we have to look at the history of video games. The first video game, at least in many people’s eyes, is “Tennis for Two,” a rather simple 1958, that based its gameplay on an oscilloscope. However, to most, the first game ever was Pong. We are all familiar with the iconic game, wherein two vertical bars pass a ball from one end of the screen to the other. Pong’s massive success led to the popularization of the Arcade, and would soon bring about the era of the home consul.

The first home consul was, of course, the Nintendo Entertainment System. With games like the Mario Bros, Contra, Castlevania, and more, the NES conquered the hearts and minds of children from all over the world. Today, Nintendo remains one of the most successful gaming companies, and products like the Switch are still quite popular.

Nintendo opened the door for the development of gaming and led to the popularization of home consoles and even PC games. Today, of course, PC gaming, especially online gaming, is incredibly popular. From co-op multiplayer games like Defenders of the Ancients and League of Legends, to online gambling games like slots and poker, the PC gaming industry is bigger than ever.

Online casinos are especially popular, with more and more people signing up for these websites daily. The main reason for their success has to do with zero-deposit bonuses, through which players can take advantage of free spins, free bets, and more, without risking their financial status at all. Online casinos are also important to this article, as they are an obvious example of video games created with an adult audience in mind.

Now that we have the historical context, it is time to answer the question we posed in the title. Are video games just for children?

Video Games Target Demographic

If we take a look at the most popular games being released on consoles like the NES, SNES, or SEGA Genesis, we could certainly see that most of them were targeted towards a younger audience. The two most popular examples include Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. Two properties that remain a staple of popular culture today, and appeal to children and adults alike.

However, if we go over the way that video games have progressed, we can certainly see a trend of video game maturation. Though game developers today still release games aimed at a younger audience, there are plenty of adult-oriented games that target an older, more mature demographic. For example, we would be hard-pressed to say that a game like Elden Ring, which deals with incredibly dark themes and aesthetics could ever be called “a child’s game.”

On the other hand, games like Minecraft and Animal Crossing, can appeal to both children and grown-ups. They are simple to understand and easy to play, which certainly would appeal to kids. However, they also can get quite complex in the way they are being played, which older fans will enjoy.

The same could be said for the Mario and Sonic games still being released. Though they feature stories and gameplay aimed at children, adults can still enjoy it due to the nostalgia they feel towards the classic games in the franchise.

On the other hand, we have games like Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Fortnite, whose aesthetic and gameplay is clearly aimed towards a teenage audience. In other words, the video game industry produces content that can appeal to anyone. In that sense, the industry is similar to most media, whether it be books, films, or comics.

Were Video Games Ever Just for Kids?

Obviously, the modern video game industry has moved away from the idea that games are just for kids. But, the question on our minds is this; have video games ever been “just for kids?” To be clear, we aren’t asking whether adults can enjoy games like Mario or Sonic. Of course, they can, and many do still play these games to this day. And why not? They are fun, simple, and serve as an entertaining distraction from the troubles of the real world.

What we are asking is, have video game companies always ever made games with the sole intention of marketing them to kids. Our argument would be that there have always been games that market towards an adult audience. To prove this, we need not look further than one of the most iconic FPS games of all time, Doom.

The original Doom sees a space marine being transported to Mars, where he has to fight a horde of demons. The game is bloody, gory, violent, and most would say, not suited for kids. Yet, parents bought this game for their kids regardless, due to the stigma that games are a “children’s toy.” The same thing could be said about other such bloody and violent games, like Mortal Kombat. So, why is that?

Why are Video Games Looked at as a Kid’s Medium?

It all has to do with the way video games were marketed in their early development. Not just that, but the most popular games of that era were, for the most part, aimed at children. The cartoony aesthetic, bright flashy colors, and cutesy designs of Mario and Sonic linked video games to children. By the time games like Doom or Mortal Kombat came out, the damage had already been done. Video games would always remain a children’s medium.

However, nowadays, we’ve moved away from such stigmas. The video game industry is a multi-billion-dollar market, rivaling film, music, and other forms of entertainment. Adult gamers find ways to balance their free time so they can play their favorite releases, and video game companies are not afraid to release M rated games aimed at an adult audience. We’ve truly come a long way since the days of Mario.

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