Gaming is now the world’s most popular category of entertainment. The range of games available is dizzying—from PC and browser games to mobile games to immersive VR adventures. In fact, even other industries are starting to pivot toward gaming, with brands from Louis Vuitton to KFC rolling out their own mobile titles.
Clearly, the emphasis is on digital gaming versus tabletops or collectible card games. However, just because there’s now a proliferation of titles, that doesn’t mean they’re easy to create, develop, and then launch. In fact, despite how many games are now household titles, few people appreciate all the work and innovation that goes into each release.
Let’s explore five of the most interesting facts about digital games, starting with one of the most challenging elements: how to ensure random outcomes.
RNG Programs Are Used to ‘Generate’ Randomness
Modern video games are the result of coding. This means programmers create software that dictates how the game unfolds—and these requirements are never left up to chance. Still, that doesn’t mean games should unfold without any type of randomness. In fact, for some titles, it’s necessary.
For example, slots are the world’s most popular casino game. If you have an understanding of how slot machines work, then you know it’s impossible for the player to predict which symbols will show up when the reel stops. This excitement is one of the game’s cornerstones. But behind it all is an RNG—a random number generator.
These RNGs will generate random outcomes using a variety of inputs, which are designed to ensure unpredictability. Beyond the realm of slots, they’re also used to offer variation in trajectory in FPS games, loot boxes in battle royales, and much more.
Hollywood-Caliber Studios Create Top Games
It can be hard to understand the amount of work that goes into creating each new major video game release. To exemplify just how advanced game studios are, let’s focus on an example: Rockstar Gaming. This UK-based studio is responsible for hugely popular franchises, including Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption.
To release GTAV, around 1,000 Rockstar employees worked for several years to create an award-winning game, with locations ranging from London to San Diego to Toronto. It was the most expensive production in gaming history, racking up a bill of around $265 million. To create a believable open-world Los Angeles-style setting, creators used over 250,000 photos of the city—they even spoke to FBI agents to understand local street slang.
Education Was an Early Driver of Gaming
Generating randomness and pulling together a $265-million-dollar project are both huge feats of modern gaming. However, one of the most interesting aspects of this modern industry is its ties to education. Today, gamification is a cornerstone of many educational apps, including language-learning platforms like Duolingo.
But way back in the day, early video games (and even virtual simulations) were centered around education. For example, the first simulated flight was launched in the 1920s to help pilots learn the ropes. As early as 1968, titles like The Sumerian Game and 1974’s The Oregon Trail were created to help students learn about historical and strategic concepts.
The World’s Best-Selling Video Game Was a Side Project
Let’s jump back to the present for a moment to focus on the world’s best-selling video game, Minecraft. For those who don’t know, this open-world game lets players create their own goals and tackle different challenges at their own speed. Since its release in 2011, it has sold over 238 million copies and has over 140 million active monthly users.
But few people realize this game came from a hobbyist programmer. As outlined above in the randomness section, programmers must use tools like RNGs to break up the monotony of gaming. But for Markus Persson, the idea behind creating Minecraft was simply to cobble together elements of his favorite games during his time off. In fact, his very first iteration of the game is still part of the mode offerings (‘Classic Mode’).