When people describe themselves as "gamers," I have a retrograde image of a young virginal boy at home with his custom Alienware, eating frozen pizza, drinking soda, and talking to his "friends" by headset through Ventrilo while cruising the Earthen Ring on World of Warcraft. But the reality is quite different. In fact, according to the Entertainment Software Association, 40 percent of all gamers are now women, and there are more women playing than teenage boys. Also, about a quarter of all people 50 and older play videogames.
So I have to revise my thinking. If I'm honest with myself, I suppose I'm a gamer too--no, I don't mow down enemies in Halo or something, but damn if I'm not completely addicted to games on my iPhone. I started with chess and solitaire (lovely old chestnuts that they are) and soon moved on to rather fatuous ventures like Paper Toss and Strike Knight. And once I start playing, I'll happily miss the bus just to get my score higher.
And that's kind of the point: I can indulge in my poor coordination skills while I wait for a bus, while I'm at a doctor's office, on a lunch break in the park, while I'm driving ... Er, okay, maybe not the last one.
The number of people playing games on PDAs or cell phones has risen 20 percent in the last nine years. That's not all attributable to Angry Birds, I don't think, which is approaching 100 million downloads.
At the Game Developers Conference this week in San Francisco, there's plenty of emphasis on mobile gaming. As BNET"s Damon Brown quips in a headline, "Consoles Are Tired; Mobile Is, Um, Wired." He goes on:
The Game Developer Conference traditionally focuses on PCs and game consoles such as the PlayStation or Xbox. This year, however, nearly every company is putting far more energy into social and/or mobile gaming platforms, including Rupert Murdoch's new company, Making Fun. Once relegated to online solitaire and bad versions of Snake, social and mobile games are taking the spotlight away from traditional home game systems.
And with the anticipated April arrival of the so-called Playstation phone--formally known as Xperia Play--mobile gaming is really going to take off. Will it replace home gaming the way the laptop challenged the desktop? We'll have to see. It's hard to imagine hardcore gamer-gamers giving away their Alienware.