What the Games Industry is Learning from TV in 2023

The games industry was once far smaller than the TV and movie sectors, but nowadays the tables have turned. All told, the global video game market is worth around $300 billion annually, and it’s increasingly using those new resources to integrate greater immersion and storytelling into its design. In doing this, it’s looking to take a leaf out of the world of TV which has proven such a mass-audience favourite over the past 50 years. Let’s take a look below at some examples of this in action.

Integrating the Live Show Format

One key sector going above and beyond in serving its patrons up a slice of showbiz is of iGaming. In recent years, leading platforms have increasingly sought to integrate live casino game shows into their core feature set. Online gaming establishments have consistently outcompeted their brick-and-mortar predecessors over the past two decades, with tech-savvy gaming fans citing the on-demand nature of these platforms as a major draw.

Though if any criticism could have been raised, it was that digital services often lacked the opportunity for human interaction that is given at a physical venue. Live dealer rooms and game shows are seen as the perfect response to this requirement. Live dealer rooms take the standard table game format familiar to online gaming aficionados and adds in the extra dimension of a live host and dealer.

This boosts immersion and creates a richer experience for patrons. Game shows, as the name suggests, take this a step further by eschewing the classic casino titles in favour of emulating traditional TV game shows. These types of shows are well-loved and have left an enduring impression on Canadian audiences thanks to their memorable combination of trivia, exciting rounds, human interest and exotic prizes. Among the most popular Canadian examples of this genre is Canada’s Smartest Person.

In Canada’s Smartest Person, the traditional trivia show of yesteryear is reimagined along the lines of crucial advances in psychology. It draws upon the ‘multiple intelligences’ theory of psychology Howard Gardner which posits that there are, in fact, 9 separate forms of intelligence and that, distributed among the general population, you will find people who are especially skilled in one or several of these.

In the show, contestants compete across a variety of rounds focused on any one of these distinct intelligences – be that visual, logical, physical, linguistic, musical or social. Whereas a normal trivia show rewards memory retention, to do well in Canada’s Smartest Person requires a diverse and broad intellect capable of adapting to a range of unique tasks. The show has been running with great success since 2014 and is currently in its fourth season.

Due to its success, it’s natural that live casino shows that look to ape its watchable appeal are in the ascendant. A prominent example of a casino show that emulates a popular game show is Dream Catcher, which incorporates a spinning wheel like those made popular by Wheel of Fortune. In doing so, these shows are pioneering a new level of interactive entertainment.

Incorporating Serialization

The rise of prestige TV series in the 21st century validated the medium as an art form in its own right, winning over skeptical critics and encouraging new creators to tell stories with the format. Serialized TV in the 90s, with the exception of soap operas, were typically episodic in their storytelling.

This means that stories and events would typically be contained within each episode, exerting minimal impact on overarching character development or background plot. This is most keenly recognized in the ‘monster of the week’ format that made shows like the original Star Trek series so accessible and popular.

By the time of the year 2000, larger budgets and a growing appetite to tell bigger stories on the small screen gave rise to shows like The Sopranos, Lost, and The Wire which used the medium to tell long-form and intricate stories. These new types of shows could unfold with the pacing of a novel, and incorporate much richer and deeper character development into their design.

Likewise, historically gaming was relatively episodic. A sequel to a game would likely advance the story of the previous title forward, but would seldom be required playing for new users. This is very similar to how movie sequels work. However, it is becoming increasingly commonplace for games to focus on telling richer and more nuanced stories, and even to incorporate season-length story arcs into their design.

This is particularly noticeable with so-called live service games that debut new content every several months. Bungie’s Destiny 2, for example, enjoys several interlocking levels of storytelling. The largest level of these are yearly expansion packs that cost a premium, and introduce new mechanics alongside major new story beats.

But in between these yearly releases, Destiny 2 also runs seasonal storytelling that unfolds in real time over the course of three months each. This gives the developers greater scope to tell backstories, call back to previous plot points, and focus on world-building in between major expansions.