This year most of us spent more time at home than ever before, and unsurprisingly this led to many of us spending more time on games consoles, PC, tablets, and phones, playing some of our favourite games – both old and new.
But spending time playing games on a device isn’t a modern phenomenon, in fact, it’s been nearly 60 years since MIT invented Spacewar!, a computer-based space combat video game, making it the first video game that could be played on multiple computer installations. And the rest as they say, is history.
In the 1970s and 80s the gaming industry really took off with, with the launch of the Space Invaders arcade game in 1978, the launch of the Atari, the introduction of Pac-Man, and the creation of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong. But it wasn’t until the late 1980s / early 90s when home-gaming was possible.
In 1989 Nintendo made waves with the release of its Game Boy, while SEGA released its MegaDrive and introduced Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991.
Since then, gaming has become a multi-billion dollar industry, with some of the most popular gaming characters worth billions in their own right.
Why do we love video game characters?
In the same way we love certain characters from books, video games are inherently an interactive medium of story-telling. People love playing games. Some more than others. So much so, that people happily sell their old consoles and buy the most up-to-date version if it means they are able to continue with their adventures with their favourite characters!
And more often than not, we’re able to take part as the protagonist. When we play a video game, we become invested in the characters, and want them – and therefore us, to succeed. However, unlike a book, when the game is over, you can keep doing side quests, you can play multi-player, you can read more in the codex, and you can keep talking to the characters – and in turn see them evolve – because of you.
On a neurological level, video game characters help fire up the parts of the brain that are responsible for empathy, and when we play with others, we create an emotional bond not only with the characters, but with the friends we play with.
Who are the most popular video game characters?
Unsurprisingly, the most popular video game character is also one of the oldest. It is of course Pac-Man. For all the incredible advances in games over the last couple of decades, you can’t compete with this simple, yet thrilling premise. The mascot of Bandai Namco, Pac-Man has appeared in over 30 games and has even had two TV shows and a hit single named after him.
Next up, Pikachu from the Pokémon franchise is the second most popular video game character. Exploding in popularity in the late 90s. Becoming an icon of Japanese pop culture, Pikachu is loved by children and adults alike.
Taking the third place for the most popular video game characters is the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog. Becoming an unlikely video game hero, Sonic was one of the best-known video game characters in the world in the 90s. His latest carnation in a Hollywood film ensures the lovable hedgehog will find a new army of future fans.
Do you have a favourite character that keeps pulling you back to play more?