The World is a Playground
Letter from the Guest Editors
With revenue projected to hit $300bn by the end of 2022, gaming is currently the fastest growing sector of the entertainment industry. Naysayers who disparaged the potential for profits outside triple-A studio games have been trounced by an explosion of dividends from indies, mods, streaming, and esports.
Once, studios decided what to produce, build, and ship. Now, gamers are empowered by an ever-expanding range of gaming experiences, and emboldened by increasingly accessible technologies. They have made their demands very clear:
- New types of experiences powered by emerging technology
- Games built not just as pre-determined stories, but storytelling engines that enable gamers to generate new stories within the world of the game
- Experimentation with innovative economic models that benefit gamers as well as developers
- Games launched through early access, leveraging the community to help develop, refine, and evangelize the game
In spite of this, game studios have alienated loyal fanbases in their haste to jump on hot, new technologies without careful forethought into the player and developer experience. This trend can be observed in the rush to esports, and the integration of NFTs that lack utility. Rather than successfully broadening their base, studios have created confusion and division, leaving money on the table.
In response, gamers are asserting their independence by harnessing open source technologies, improved internet access, and widespread coding literacy to build their own playgrounds. But there is room for everyone—Games like Minecraft, Roblox, and Sea of Thieves win by opening up features that allow players to create their own content. Yet, even these games don’t allow true ownership of digital assets. The big question is: How would the gaming & entertainment landscape change if players could own the assets they earn, build, and improve?
This five-part series from The Lydion Magazine is a deep-dive into the shifting landscape of the gaming industry. The Core Edition, The World is a Playground, shares stories from the borderlands of gaming’s manifest destiny.
Jonathan Bankard - Co-founder of Popularium
Jennifer Yi - Co-founder of Popularium
Arka Ray - Managing Director of The Data Economics Company and co-founder of Popularium
Lucy Gillespie - Managing Editor, The Lydion Magazine
Jennifer Hinkel - Editor-in-Chief of The Lydion Magazine, and Managing Director of The Data Economics Company
Power to the Gamers
Once upon a time, gamers were young, male, and tech-savvy. Now, that player in your Fortnite games could be a woman in her early 20s discovering shooters for the first time, a man in his 50s who’s been gaming since Doom, or even your mom.
As audiences expand from a single demographic to a broad psychographic, developers are forced to accelerate the pace of innovation. New audiences are as hungry as they are diverse, and their demand for groundbreaking content outstrips developers’ capacity to supply. Gamers empowered with tools, time, and money are rushing to fill the gap.
Here’s what happens next.
Games as Storytelling and Content Engines
We live in an ether of swirling data points. We tell stories to make sense out of chaos. Individual and collective evolution is driven by the exchange of and engagement with one another’s stories.
Games also tell stories. Once unfolding along a straight and narrow path, games have been transformed by new technologies into playgrounds where players can produce stories of their own.
As the first chapter of The Lydion Magazine’s edition on gaming, this sub-Edition focuses on the evolution of games from playable stories to storytelling and content engines. Gaming industry veterans share their experiences establishing identity, finding community, and connecting the dots of life’s data through gaming.
The Expanding Universe of Gaming
What are the forces driving the future of gaming? DECO and Popularium co-founder Arka Ray considers the immeasurable value of a platform that generates stories that pass the Turing test, while Popularium co-founder Jonathan Bankard examines how the rise of streaming platforms like Twitch has changed the game for entertainment.
Tales from the Ether - Part 1: A Turing Test for Stories
The stories of our lives are not constructed by a single storyteller. They emerge spontaneously through the combination of countless inputs from the physical and digital world. Could a platform for reality-defining stories be successfully imitated by technology?
The New Entertainers: The Rise of Streaming-based Communities
Twitch averaged 2.78 million concurrent viewers in 2021, making it one of the most trafficked sites on the internet. Once targeted at hard-core gamers, game streaming platforms have become major mainstream media outlets that scratch a universal itch for connection.
All for One and One for All
Since the early days of the Internet, gamers—often unable to find their chosen families IRL—have logged on in search of like-minded players to bond with over beloved game experiences.
Sanctuaries exist all over the web, in the form of IRC channels, message boards, forums, private servers, and now Discord and Twitch, offering gamers the means to share skills, trade tips, tell stories, and make friends around virtual campfires.
The role and importance of communities in driving the commercial success of games have only grown since the early days of gaming, and over the past decade, communities have also become increasingly important in the development process of games.
In this Part 2 of The World is a Playground series of The Lydion Magazine, we explore the evolving impact that gaming communities have on the development, release, and commercial success of games through the lens of grizzled veterans and rising stars of the industry.
The Glory of the Sea of Thieves
When Katie McKeon-Smith fell in love with life at sea, she did what anyone would do—started a TikTok channel. She’s now an influencer who creates educational content for the massively popular Sea of Thieves. Hop on board as she imparts the Pirate Code to a swarthy bunch of rogues who follow from across the seven seas.
Why Your Game Needs Early Access
Early Access is a growing phenomenon in gaming that’s easier said than done. While Early Access programs can offer several potential benefits to gamers and game developers, they often result in disappointment for both due to mismanaged expectations and execution. But in the startup world, well-managed community engagement initiatives are standard practice for companies ready to scale. Dave Nemetz—co-founder of Inverse and Bleacher Report—shares his playbook for ways game studios can optimize their Early Access programs while giving back true ownership to player-participants.
Upcoming Sub-Editions: Coming Soon from The Lydion Magazine
Life is played out online. Anything gamified can be a game.
In these first-hand stories, writers reveal how games helped them overcome real-world challenges.
Imagine a world where players own the assets they earn, build, and improve.