The Adoption of Mobile Game Applications as Sustainable Social and Behavioral Change.

Author:Haghshenas, Hanif


Playing digital games has become the dominant activity of the current generation (Becker, 2007). Consumers spent $22.41 billion on video games, hardware and accessories in 2015 and 68.7 percent (15.4 billion) of these sales include games, add-on content, mobile apps, subscriptions, and social networking games (Entertainment Software Association, 2016). Thirty-five percent of gamers play games on smartphones, and thirty-one percent play games on wireless devices (Entertainment Software Association, 2016). Besides this, several different demographics as well as age groups are captivated deeply in their leisure time especially by gaming activities (Saulter, 2007). ESA (2016) has reported that the average game player is 35 years old and women aged 18 or older represent the biggest age-gender cohort of the game-playing population (33%). These figures are in contrast to traditional views where playing virtual-games was generally regarded as a male youth activity. Now male adults are found to spend more time playing games (Jang & Ryu, 2011). Different demographics are also involved in the widespread playing of digital games. It is not surprising that entertainment software is becoming one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. economy with only three states (California, Texas, and Washington) together contributing almost 2 billion to the US economy (Siwek, 2010).

A clone of an old electronic game Lights Out, Lights Off was the first natively developed iPhone game. It was released by Lucas Newman and Adam Betts in August 2007, but it was only in January 2009 that this game became available in the app store. This was a milestone to present iPhone as a gaming device and an indication of things to come. In fact, the introduction of the iPhone smartphone in 2007 changed the future of the market for converged mobile devices and the related value chain for mobile gadgets and services such as mobile-game applications (West & Mace, 2010). Nowadays, game applications are more widely available in different app markets such as Google play, iTunes App-Store, and Microsoft Windows Store. Based on the number of downloads provided in these app-stores, game applications such as Temple Run, Pou, Candy Crush, and Angry Bird have gained more than 500 million downloads (Google Play, 2016). These massive demand numbers reflect the ubiquitous use of smart-phones, which has made playing games a socially accepted activity (Chang, Ku, & Fu, 2013). The figures provided by 'Strategy Analytics' (2016) explains how the downloads of mobile-game applications have increased as the result of the growing trend towards using smart phones. In other words, the rapid growth of smartphones and emerging mobile services (including mobile-game application) in developed markets is simultaneous (Verkasalo, 2011) and the technological growth of one is depend on development of the other one (West & Mace, 2010). From a technological perspective, there are two main reasons which help explain such pervasive proliferation of mobile-game applications. First, this reflects recent trend of convergence between communication-oriented and non-communication-oriented services that resulted in a new wave of advanced handheld devices such as smartphones (Hamilton, 2003). Secondly, it also reflects the growing use of and subscription to mobile data services (MDS) ( Kim & Han, 2009) or mobile internet (MI) services (Gerpott, 2011) to access digitized content on the internet.

Mobile-game applications have penetrated consumer markets throughout the world due to the rapid adoption of internet through mobile devices ( Kim, Choi, & Han, 2009). In fact, all mobile technologies connected to wireless networks have largely changed the way people access information on the internet (Lee, 2007). This is because mobile internet services can be generally accessed anywhere, anytime via mobile communication networks (Figge, 2004). From a social and behavioral point of view, mobile handsets and services have had an impact on the ways people, enterprises, and governments operate, behave, and interact (Verkasalo, 2011). In fact, the ubiquitous use of smart-phones has made playing games a socially accepted activity (Chang et al., 2013). Mobile-game applications and social networks are representative of major technological changes that have taken place within the consumer electronics field in recent years. These technologies are two eminent examples of the way technology has an enormous impact on creating powerful next generation consumer experiences in both gaming and social networking (Carbonara, 2014).

From a developer and service provider side, low entry barriers and high income for such rewarding market has made it lucrative for app developers. This could be based on the fact that unlike social networking sites, mobile-game applications could not be dominated by single or few applications/apps since the market is tremendous and individuals play several games. This difference between social networking and mobile-game applications was the motivation to consider only mobile-game applications. In fact, several studies have been made that focused on the implications and effects of social networking sites and digital games (e.g., Carbonara, 2014) and also social networking sites (e.g., Fogg & Iizawa, 2008) in terms of either socio-cultural changes or social acculturation phenomena. However, this present study opts only to focus on mobile-game applications. Besides, game-type applications proved to be more successful than the other types. The number of downloads in the app markets reinforce this point with several mobile-games having achieved immense number of downloads.

Therefore the main purpose of this paper is to reflect on the ways in which mobile-game applications (as a particular technology or IT artefact) have been influencing changes in the individual and social behaviour of individuals. This results from how the enablers of the evolution in mobile-game applications involve shifts which affect the relationship between technological changes and individuals as social agents. On one hand, social cognitive theory (Bandura, 2001b) has defined people as active social agents who are producers as well as products of social systems. In other words, from an agentic socio-cognitive view, individuals are proactive (and self-regulating) and not just reactive organisms shaped and shepherded by external events (Bandura, 1999). On the other hand, modern technology is a constructed order which links human doing to particular challenges (Heidegger, 1977). Heidegger's phenomenological view of technology incorporates the following levels: (a) technology as instrument; (b) technology as a truth-revealing process; and (c) the essence of technology itself. We focus here on the essence of technology and its effect on the truth-revealing process. Heidegger's (1977) used the term ge-siell [enframing] to refer to the 'self-revealing' process of such human engagement. With 'ge-siell' or enframing, a related process of 'unconcealment' comes to pass in conformity with which the work of modern technology reveals the truth as standing-reserve. The use of modern technology is therefore neither only a human activity nor a mere means within such activity (Heidegger, 1977).

In sum, people are social agents who are producers and products of external events interacting with technology (as an external event). This is a process that is neither only a human activity nor a mere means in revealing the real/truth resulting from such interactivity which shapes as well as reflects ongoing social and behavioral changes. In other words, social and behavioral changes should be further studied beyond a simple behavioral change in society and should include the role of technology in shaping human societies and cultures. Focusing on the ecosystem created in the evolution of mobile-game applications helps to understand and explain related social and behavioral changes. Drawing on Bandura's (2001b) social cognitive theory and Heideggerian phenomenology, the evolution of mobile-game application may be scrutinized to better understand the acculturation and socio-cultural issues facing human societies. As represented by the concept of 'ge-stell' in Heideggerian phenomenology, the evolution of mobile-game application is a dynamic movement towards order. This process both creates and obscures truth and hides the humane parts of the human society as the essence of technology contains both danger and opportunity for creating socio-cultural impacts.

On this basis, the problem focus of this paper was formulated around the discussion of how Heidegger's seminal ideas can be adapted for critical social research by showing that technology is more than an instrument as it has epistemic implications for what counts as truth. Therefore, this paper will apply a Heideggerian view of technology as the innovative basis of critical social research aiming to better understand the danger and opportunity of those social and individual behavioral changes. Thus, in the context that mobile-game applications involve billions of dollars in actual as well as future potential revenue, the main question to be engaged here is:

RQ1: What could be learned from evolution of mobile-game application to aid other technologies (or the use of technology in other contexts such as education) to create similar ecosystems to best predict the future adoption of those technologies?

As indicated, as well as technological changes there are also social and behavioral research perspectives to be established to explain the ongoing adoption of mobile-game applications. The challenge of finding the link between technological changes and both social and individual behavioral changes in light of emergence of mobile-game application provides the framework for focusing on a related question:

RQ2: How might Heidegger's view of technology and Bandura's social...

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