Screen time is a big deal. Right now the games industry is about to tip over the $100 billion dollar revenue point and shows no sign of slowing down. This isn’t the ‘true’ figure because so much of the revenue around games is concealed inside subtle categories. It’s easy to see a game in a store, easy to check a shipping manifesto and compare to inventory and sales figures.
The reality is that the figures we see about the screen time associated with games deals with the ‘tip’ of a very deep iceburg. The games industry has learned that DLC, add-ons, season passes, apps and special events rake in billions more dollars and billions more hours of play. The thin research we have about games (yes, it’s microscopic in comparison to what we know about other phenomenon such as TV) is barely a flag on top of that ice-burg.
When you hear that kids spend 2 hours on ‘games’ a day – you have to be well aware what they meant by ‘game’ in the first place. Sure my kid clocked 10 hours on Saturday playing Overwatch, but he’d spend 50 more watching YouTube about Overwatch before we got our beta-keys. Clearly this is a game which will take full advantage of the vast marketing and digital content sales for Blizzard Activision. And why not, it’s a great game – and instant FPS brawler thats funny, draws from other game culture and lore with endless options in the future.
Some recent research is suggesting 6-8 hours a day of screen-time is now the norm and might well explain the issues facing teachers – even those using technology – to keep their attention when needed, get them to be quiet when needed and not phase out as soon as some critical thinking is called for. At the same time, parents seem to increasingly see school as an ‘app’ – it’s an email away or a text – for the duration, they have bought a season-pass to learning much as they subscribe to Xbox Live. Busy lives, demanding workplaces, consumerism, hater-culture, neo-liberalism — call it what you like — but ‘the media’ that lashes at schools today is not the same as 5 years ago — and yet there teacher culture seems to not really grasp the ingredients of media and instead focuses on selecting a few ‘apps’ and Google shoes to wade about in the rising tide of online culture which permeates the thinking (or not thinking) of season-pass holding parents.
Of course this isn’t a universal truth, however the screen time we insist is necessary just might be the thing that sinks us.