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Dispensing Strategies: Clicking With Youth Culture

Clicking With Youth Culture

March 6, 2008
By Michelle Brisebois


Today’s youth are definitely a moving target. We live in a world of
gadgets and gizmos – allowing all of us to be online and wired almost
everywhere at anytime.

Today’s youth are definitely a moving target. We live in a world of gadgets and gizmos – allowing all of us to be online and wired almost everywhere at anytime.

While this privilege is available to everyone, it’s today’s youth that seem to be born cable-ready.  They integrate this
technology into their daily lives with an ease that makes anyone over the age of 30 envious.

They’re playing video games more frequently than ever before but with today’s technology allowing youth to connect to the Internet on just about every street corner – they don’t need to go to an arcade to do it.  The evolution of technology should have been a good thing for arcades but it became a double-edged sword.


Can we use technology to get them back to the arcade? Is there a way to get Pandora back into the box?
A survey conducted by Harris Inter-active on behalf of Alloy Media + Marketing among 1,793 U.S. college students confirms that even use of the faithful desktop computer is decreasing. The survey found that 13 per cent fewer students used desktop computers compared to 50 per cent of students going to class with a laptop. That’s a respectful 8 per cent increase over the previous year.

It suggests that students prefer to be mobile. While students hit wi-fi hotspots on campus, they engage in nearly 3.5 hours of e-mail, instant messaging, and web surfing daily.

Campuses nationwide have ramped up to meet student demand for mobility and networked interaction. Twenty-nine per cent of all schools provide blanket coverage, with 64 per cent reporting such plans in the works. As for cell phones, an additional 1.3 million students now own them and are spending nearly 20 minutes each day sending and receiving text messages. Of the 41 per cent of students who own an MP3 player, 85 per cent are plugged in to their portable MP3s daily.
The classroom has tapped into the digital world too. More and more students are using their portable MP3 players to catch up with their lectures by podcast and most class notes are available online. The role of “friends” has also evolved within the online world, fuelled by the increasing popularity of social networking sites among today’s youth.
Research shows that 85 per cent of students who visit social networking sites use them to see what their friends are up to. On average, young adults aged 18-24 are hanging out on these sites for 6.5 hours a week. These kids indicate to researchers that they have an average of 111 friends across many profiles online, changing the definition of today’s peer group and the way students connect with each other. 
Another 61 per cent of students on social networking sites say they are interacting with people they've never met in person.

Baby boomers still see technology as something separate from their daily lives – a form of entertainment while youth think of connectivity as a way of life. They integrate technology seamlessly throughout their day. They’re just as likely to be on a social networking site while chatting on a cell phone at the same time. Their approach to gaming follows the same philosophy.

Van Burnam, author of Supercade, was interviewed by Wired and lamented the shift from arcade gaming to solitary

“It makes me sad to think that future generations may not know the joy of playing games in video arcades,” Burnham said. “In order to survive, I feel it is necessary for arcade games to evolve into something new, something we can’t experience at home.”

The linear format traditionally used for arcade games has given way to games with complex story arcs. These games lend themselves much more effectively to being played over many days and weeks either at home or on a personal device.

The PC games of today are in an entertainment category of their own – a hybrid of movies, television and primitive video games such as Pong. According to Play Meter’s most recent State of the Industry Report, average weekly gross of dedicated video games decreased from $129 in 2005 to $87 in 2006. Video game kits saw their weekly average decrease from $86 in 2005 to $55 in 2006 and deluxe video game simulators had a decrease in average sales per week from $179 to $146 in the same time frame. Total locations are down 40 per cent 2006 from 2005.

Some of this decrease may be related to demographics. The peak of the Echo boom was around 1990 and 1991 – those kids are in their late teens and are often much busier with social lives, jobs and school. We do know that they still love gaming – the key may just be to leverage technology to draw them back to arcade gaming.
Some businesses are using RSS feeds to have customers sign up for permission based offers text messaged to their cell phones. It would be a great way to let players know a new game has just arrived.

Why not create a blog on your website to encourage gamers to discuss tips and their game reviews? Remember – video games have great appeal now because of their story arcs. Think of ways to provide a forum for gamers to tell their stories. In-house seminars and strategy workshops may also be a way to speak to those keen to hone their skills.

New technology doesn’t always have to kill off the old technology; they often live happily side-by-side. ATMs get along quite nicely with bricks and mortar banks and Internet banking. Conventional ovens co-exist nicely with microwaves.
Video didn’t kill the radio star … that radio star is now podcasting.

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