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The Role of Data Science in the Gaming Industry

Did you know that more than a fourth of the world’s population comprises of ‘players’? These players belong to the gaming industry, which makes over $20 billion in annual revenue just in United States of America; that is about 2.5 times the movie industry and growing!

While most industries have advanced with technology, growth in the gaming industry has been phenomenal, to say the least. Behind the scenes, as data is captured game after game, there is a great deal of Data Science that is fueling this excitement and growth.

Gamers may not realize how much data they are generating every time they play a game. As a game is in progress, there are complex algorithms making predictions and decisions on the basis of each move or click of every player. Developers are now better able to understand the usage patterns of gamers – how they play, how they interact with other players, what they enjoy or don’t, and several other factors that help in understanding their mindset.

By analyzing literally millions of usage patterns, it has become possible to understand the most likely junctures where users quit, are unable to climb to the next level, or are able to progress with ease. Such learning is crucial in identifying bottlenecks, churn rates, and design issues that need alteration. These technology-enhanced processes have brought about tremendous innovation and sophistication in user experience

In the case of games that are connected with social media, much more information about the profiles and behaviour of individual users is at hand, and this further helps analysts in developing user-centric strategies and game complexities. Once developers have been able to use all this data to analyse and understand players’ psyche, they can make more effective modifications, upgrades, and design changes. All this is made possible by the involuntary feedback provided by players in the form of reams of data, which ultimately helps improve the user experience, in turn making gamers log on more frequently and stay logged on for longer.

The gaming industry is a thrilling arena for data scientists to learn the ropes and test diverse sets of data. It has even become possible to predict your opponent’s moves or strategies with the help of data science! For Artificial Intelligence (AI) developers, it presents an exciting avenue for experimenting with new algorithms and models, researching, studying and training. The emergence and growth of data analytics and the gaming industry have been both contemporaneous and synergistic. The intersect between the two has created opportunities as well as a much sought-after career track.

Good Data Science programmes today not only provide a good hands-on approach to analysing structured as well as unstructured data using various tools, but they also aim to equip learners with the ability to ask the right questions and use the resultant analysis to solve real-world business, economic, financial, political and other problems. Key components of such programmes tend to be machine learning, business analytics, modelling and prediction, econometrics and information systems, which enable data scientists to make forecast future trends and use this to drive their organisation’s strategy and growth.

Having helped the gaming industry optimise user experience like it has, data science has become an extremely sought-after skill. And gaming is certainly not the only unconventional application of this emergent and dynamic ability. Think of any field where consumers and other stakeholders leave a digital footprint, and data science comes into play.

By some accounts, all this is rapidly moving us towards what is being called the ‘emotional web’, which will intrusively creep into our lives and know much, much more about our habits, life patterns, likes and dislikes, whether we like it or not! Yet, even this hints at the prowess and indispensability of data science in time to come. As with any disruption, data science will continue to attract bouquets as well as brickbats well into the future, but what is certain for now is that those entering the workforce cannot afford to ignore it.

BY: Dr. Yavar Ehsan, Associate Professor, Information Technology at Indian School of Business & Finance (ISBF)

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