At the dawn of the Eighties, when Sinclair Research Ltd unleashed its 16k ZX Spectrum into a fledgling home-computing marketplace, it could scarcely have imagined the destination of the trail it was blazing. Although the Spectrum and competitors, such as the Commodore 64, were personal computers, and more than just gaming platforms, it was the games that were to be the backbone of their success. It was clear from the packaging and marketing material that the manufacturers weren't blind to this either, and their products seemed firmly targeted at the younger generation.
Before too long, parents everywhere were being nagged to invest their hard-earned cash in one or another brand of the new breed of computers. The Spectrum and its popular rivals enjoyed several years of success, as many a household indulged. But, just as many of the games were developed in the sweaty back-bedrooms of teenage software developers, the computers themselves were typically consigned to the same fate. Parents (and for the most part, girls) did not engage with the machines, simply not enthused by the primitive graphics and alien language that conversely had their children wanting to stay up all night.
Gaming was niche; the domain of a minority slice of teens and pre-teens and decidedly uncool in the eyes of the mocking masses. To those who rode the wave, it was a gateway to other worlds and a way to let their imaginations run wild. To them, the crude low-pixel images and basic sounds were transformed in their minds to something magical. But to the uninitiated, the games looked and sounded laughable, and with names like Jet Set Willy, the jokes were ready made. To them, gaming was reserved for pre-pubescent boys who lacked the social skills to engage in real-life. To them, it was undoubtedly true to say 'gamers are geeks.'
Fast-forward several decades, through years of rapidly developing technology and exponential advancements in computing power, and the picture is very different. The average age of the gamer in 2014 was reported, via various different calculations, as anywhere between 30 and 35. Furthermore, there were reportedly as many girls playing games as boys. Reducing production costs have made the huge leaps in processing power much more accessible, to the point some games are now barely distinguishable from real-life. Online and co-operative gaming have brought all new levels of immersion, and games consoles have now moved from the bedroom to claim pride of place, front and centre under the TV in the main living room. Furthermore, portable and mobile gaming are pushing games to a wider audience than could possibly have been conceived when the ZX Spectrum launched in 1982.
In November 2013, Sony launched the PlayStation 4 to the global market to huge critical acclaim. In January 2015, just 14 months after the console's release, Sony announced they had sold 18.5 million units worldwide. By comparison, lifetime sales of all variants of the ZX Spectrum are estimated at 5 million. Games are no longer created in a week by one man working in a dimly lit bedroom until the early hours. They require months, even years to create, utilising teams of hundreds of highly-qualified professionals and multi-million dollar production values. Gartner predicted the global video game market to be work in excess of $110 billion in 2015. That's expected to be more than the music and film industry combined.
So, now that gaming is about as mainstream as it gets, is it still true to say 'gamers are geeks'? Oddly enough, the answer, albeit to a lesser degree, is still 'yes'. Arguably now the largest entertainment industry, gamers still haven't quite managed to shake the 'geek' badge. The difference between 1982 and the present day is that they now wear that badge with pride.