Gaming has become a ubiquitous aspect of modern times. In the Philippines, it is no different. Gaming has been a significant part of Philippine culture and society, serving as a means of entertainment, socialization, and even competition. From console and computer to online multiplayer and mobile games, gaming has become a staple in the everyday lives of Filipinos.
Today, playing video games has evolved from just another form of leisure activity into a legitimate industry, generating billions of dollars in global revenue. The rapid growth of technology has enabled the development of sophisticated and immersive gaming experiences, attracting a wide range of players from all walks of life. But, it wasn’t always like that.
Starting on Hard mode
Gaming in the Philippines didn’t exactly have the best start. In 1981, former President Ferdinand Marcos issued a nationwide ban on video game machines, citing concerns over the negative effects they were having on youth behavior and morals. The ban was part of Marcos’ broader efforts to regulate and control various aspects of Philippine society and was enacted through an executive order.
The ban had a significant impact on the gaming industry in the Philippines, causing the closure of many public arcades. Coin-operated gaming machines such as Pac-man, Galaga, Frogger, and Donkey Kong were ordered to be dismantled and surrendered to the military. Violators would’ve been charged a fine of $620 (which is about $2,024.36 today) and up to 12 years in prison.
As expected, the ban was not universally supported, and many Filipinos saw it as an infringement on their rights to leisure and entertainment. During a time of computer innovation and emerging technologies, it seemed counterproductive to remove access to any of it. Despite these concerns, the ban remained in effect for several years.
Eventually, the ban was lifted, following the overthrow of the Marcos regime in 1986. The lifting of the ban allowed for the resurgence of the gaming industry in the Philippines, and the growth of gaming as a cultural and social phenomenon.
Play together, stay together
In addition to being a source of entertainment, gaming has also become a means of socialization and community building in the Philippines. Friends and families often gather to play games together, whether it be at home, at local gaming cafes, or online.
Computer shops have gotten so popular in the Philippines that at one point it was considered to be one of the most profitable business ventures to get into. High-speed internet and good gaming hardware weren’t accessible to the majority of households just yet. Having a shared space where you can rent out a PC, play to your heart’s content, and form new friendships with the people around you was very enticing especially for young gamers at the time.
Today, video games have transitioned to an entirely different level in the form of mobile gaming. The widespread availability of smartphones and tablets, as well as the increasing affordability of these devices, have made gaming more accessible to Filipinos. Titles like Mobile Legends, Call of Duty Mobile, Rules of Survival, and PUBG have become some of the most popular games in the Philippines, attracting millions of players. These games provide a quick and convenient way to play and compete with others, even while on the go.
In a survey conducted last April 2022, about 56% of respondents claim that they play mobile games every day. Chances are, if you have a smartphone, there’s probably at least one game downloaded to it.
And of course, we can’t forget to talk about console gaming. With just a quick search of the words “PlayStation”, “Xbox”, and “Nintendo Switch” on Facebook, you can see countless Philippine-based groups. Most of them are buy-and-sale pages but there are ones that are dedicated to nurturing an online space based on their chosen console platform. They provide a way for players to discuss their favorite games, share tips and tricks, and even arrange multiplayer sessions.
The COVID-19 pandemic definitely helped in increasing the number of gamers. When everyone is mandated to just stay at home, there’s only a limited amount of activities to keep everyone entertained. Gaming was one of the things that benefited greatly from all the extra time the world had as a study in Europe showed that 50% of gamers stated that playing made them feel happier with 39% reporting that it made them feel less isolated. The amount of time spent playing video games in the Asia-Pacific region grew by 42%. New titles released at the time like Call of Duty: Warzone, Animal Crossing New Horizons, and Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout received record-breaking numbers of player counts and unit sales.
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Undoubtedly, gaming has emerged as a noteworthy element of Filipino culture and society, functioning as a source of leisure, camaraderie, and rivalry. Starting from its historic beginnings in arcade games to its current preeminence in mobile and internet-based multiplayer experiences, gaming has become an essential component of Filipino entertainment.
As technology continues to advance, it is likely that gaming will continue to play a significant role in Philippine culture and society. As the industry grows through esports, game development, content creation, and communities, video games have the potential to fully move beyond the stigma that it’s only a waste of time.
M2 Communications is a public relations agency in the Philippines that specializes in business, technology, and lifestyle communication. We focus on digital PR, issues and crisis management, stakeholder engagement, and media analytics.