If you think of a video game it is unlikely you would imagine yourself in the role of a wheelchair-bound man desperately travelling back in time to try to change the events that led to his partner's death in a car crash – and his own loss of mobility. But that is the narrative of Last Day of June, the multi-award winning 2017 game for PC, Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) and Nintendo Switch, that promises “an intense, cinematic experience”. Critics described how moving they found it and Dr Pete Etchells, author of Lost in a Good Game, is no exception. “As a 35-year-old man, who lost my dad when I was 14, it really spoke to me,” he says.
More of a meditation on grief than a game, Last Day of June carefully demonstrates to the player a powerful truth: the desire to change the past is as natural as it is impossible. It also demonstrates just how diverse the world of gaming is.
Despite its millions of devotees and booming esports audience, gaming has somehow remained outside mainstream culture. Trapped, perhaps, by a certain stereotype in the popular imagination of gamers as pale, male and adolescent, alone in their bedrooms with a controller in their hand blasting away at aliens.
Yet in America, nearly half of all gamers are women and the average age of players is early thirties. The range of games is immense, from smartphone puzzle games like Candy Crush to hyper-realistic console racing series Gran Turismo, to online multiplayer sword-and-sorcery epics like World of Warcraft on PC. The number of gamers is growing, too, with 65 per cent of Americans saying they play them.
And as interest grows from tech companies such as Google and Amazon to enter the market, there are signs that gaming could one day become as mainstream as watching TV.