GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – With coronavirus lockdown rules in place and Americans being advised to stay at home, online engagement has increased dramatically.
One of the most common at-home media activities last month was gaming. While they’ve had to temporarily close their doors because of the ‘Safer-At-Home’ order, a lot of Edge VR Arcade’s customers and community have moved online.
“It’s engaging,” says Sean Bowers, owner of Edge VR Arcade. “Not only if you’re just playing online but also if there’s plenty of content that’s got a great story and a lot of emotional engagement.”
Online competitive gaming, or eSports, has seen a recent frenzy of traffic. Between March 12 and March 19, online gaming traffic in the U.S. surged by 75 percent. That’s according to data gathered by Golden Casino News. The U.S. represents the second-largest online gaming market in the world. Before the cornoavirus pandemic, the U.S. online gaming industry was expected to generate a $3.5 billion profit in 2020.
“Not only PC but you have Xbox, Nintendo, and PlayStation that you have people playing online,” says Bowers. “They’ve had some issues with their servers recently because of how many people are on. It’s just like with the people who experience the internet going a little bit slow and buggy, just because of the amount of blow it’s been taking.”
Statistics also showed the number of users in the U.S. online gaming scene is set to reach 63.7 million this year. By the end of 2024, that number is projected to jump over 66 million. One of the many attractions they offer is the sense of escape through gaming.
“You also are able to escape just like you would cinematically through movies or through a book- you can do that through games,” said Bowers. “You can take an interactive role in everything, whether you’re role-playing a person online that’s a character you created up or you’re just yourself. If you’re playing a single-player game that has an engaging story that allows you to make decisions that affect the outcome of the ending or create a lot of circumstances that you have to work through.”
Even though playing online with friends requires a headset, it still has that same feeling as if you’re playing alongside someone in the same room.
“I’ve played Rocket League for about four years now and I have a friend here in Green Bay that I’m teammates with and then we met a third teammate who is French and he lives in Canada,” says Bowers. “Last year, he came and visited us for a couple of weeks because we had become such good friends and that’s a connection that we never would have been able to have without online gaming or an online community. It’s really a testament to the inner connectivity you can get through online gaming in the world and the relationships you can create.”
Which is opening new paths in the virtual world. According to the staff at Edge VR, a portion of that traffic includes the number of viewers watching video game streams on platforms such as Twitch. For some, video games provide an escape similar to that of watching a movie or television show.
“A lot of people have switched over to participating in eSports and watching that because you have things like Madden, Halo, and Rocket League being one too,” said Bowers. “Getting into streaming is kind of a new era of showing the possibilities eSports can have which just keeps growing and growing every day.”
Despite their doors being closed at this time, Edge VR say they are still able to engage their community online thanks to some online tournaments. Those at the arcade say they will continue to host online tournaments until they can open their doors once more.