//This article originally appeared in Forbes//

Who plays on a Monopoly or Backgammon board anymore?

The excitement of gaming has moved to the internet, where it can stimulate players with the instant gratification of the victory or the kill. Gambling, too, has moved from card and roulette tables to digital formats replete with vibrant sound and dazzling graphics.

My company places artificial intelligence in home routers from which we collect usage statistics and apply analytics on behalf of communication service providers, device and app vendors, and content and media providers to the home, and I’ve found that gamers are not just the stereotypical depictions we see on TV and in movies. They are all of us. According to a study by the Entertainment Software Association, 70% of gamers are 18 years old and older, and Filmora Wondershare (via Review 42) found that 46% of worldwide gamers are at least 36 years old. The average age of a female gamer is 34, and her male counterpart is 32.

By the end of 2020, according to Newzoo, there were 2.7 billion video gamers worldwide. That’s almost one in three humans playing their hours away in video ecstasy — and we haven’t peaked yet. The gaming herd is still multiplying and is expected to reach 3 billion by 2023.

There’s a lot at stake. Gaming revenues are ascending like a rocket — from $160 billion in 2020 to a staggering jackpot of $200 billion by 2023, according to Newzoo. In terms of revenues, the gaming industry is led by China and the United States, followed by Japan, South Korea, Germany, the U.K. and France.

Gaming As Social Media

With a third of the human race actively involved, it’s no wonder that digital games are not just about the games. They are a virtual shared space where numerous adjunct activities take seats at the digital table. Accompanying today’s latest games are a dozen or more other digital activities that envelop gamers like soundwaves at a heavy metal concert. Music streaming, videoconferencing, search engines, shopping, messaging, gambling, dating services, fashion, event promotion and a whole lot more appear at strategic times and places on the gaming screen.

So pervasive are these adjunct activities that more than a third of gamers actually participate in non-gaming activities or events from within their games, according to Activate Consulting. Today, gamers can customize their gaming locations (I want to play this one on Mars or in the Congo), change the fashions of their avatars (I would like to wear a blue Golden State Warriors uniform) and even attend virtual events like weddings and meetings. They can customize their competitive games by choosing their teammates and competitors while communicating during the play via messaging and voice chat, sharing maps and universes. They can even send actual gifts and rewards to each other during the action.

As consumers increase their engagement with games, the importance of social elements becomes paramount in their gaming experience.

Cashing In

The wild popularity of digital gaming and its social elements is certainly not lost on technology companies eager to jump into the fray. There is gold in them thar digital hills!

Some of the largest companies on the planet already offer or are building subscription services. Delivery and cloud colossus Amazon offers a subscription-based gaming platform that includes opportunities to purchase (from guess who?) while playing. Google Stadia, Apple Arcade, Nvidia, Sony and Microsoft compete for joystick time, while Facebook, Huawei and numerous other digital giants are getting into the play with their own services.

Obviously, games are fertile ground for attracting eyeballs with flashy ads that increasingly take on the look and feel of the game. Advertisers pony up vast sums to present their wares to players. But that’s not all.

Video streaming goliaths are offering interactive titles and augmented reality (AR) capabilities that borrow heavily from video-gaming experiences. For example, Netflix allows viewers of interactive streams to participate in what they are watching by making choices that influence the narrative. Should the protagonist lose his life or escape? You choose, and the stream continues the way you model it. Snapchat offers AR technologies that can place viewers right into the movie they are watching. More is on the way. See it from above, up close, from afar, from the side — any way you like it.

It’s All About Experience

Most people play their games at home. It should come as no surprise that gaming from home has substantially increased since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Billions of people are working and learning from home, and our gaming consumption is also soaring. The number of hours spent on games, regardless of platform (mobile phone, PC, tablet), is shooting up. Americans have increased their gaming by 45% in the Covid-19 era. With more gaming platforms, consoles, advertising and other services invading the conjured world of digital games, we can expect gaming to take up increasing swathes of our time.

Since the home is now “gaming central,” the focus of everybody who has a stake in the gaming market — internet service providers, game creators, device vendors — should be very focused on enhancing the home-gaming experience at all times.