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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Computer games lure older players
screen shot from The Sims:Hot Date. EA
The Sims has proved hugely popular with both sexes
Computer gaming is no longer the preserve of teenagers or youngsters.

A survey by the European Leisure Software Publishers Association has found that the average age of the keenest players is gradually edging upwards.

The results of the survey revealed that the largest game-playing group is actually aged between 25 and 34.

It also found that women are starting to be a significant proportion of Europe's gamers and that many more titles aimed at them are being produced.

A life onscreen

The annual market survey by Elspa has revealed that the relatively high cost of consoles, PCs and games means that it's only those with salaries and money to spare that can keep up with the latest titles.

Screenshot from Britney's Dance Beat, THQ
All the right moves: Britney's Dance Beat
Allied research carried out by the games magazine PC Zone found that these ageing, avid players are typically in the top social groups, have an average annual income of about 20,000 and 30% of them have children.

In recognition of this growing group of ageing players, many games companies are producing titles, such as Grand Theft Auto 3, aimed specifically at this over 18 market.

The Elspa report also found that Europe's gaming population is diversifying in other ways.

Many software publishers are releasing games that have less to do with the guns, explosions and chases and are about softer subjects that appeal to a much wider audience.

The computer game The Sims, that lets people run the lives of simulated people, recently became one of the best-selling games ever. Part of this success has been put down to the fact that many of its keenest adherents are women.

Since The Sims was launched in May 2000, it has sold over 2.6 million copies in North America alone.

Old age players

Also growing in size is the number of small children and school age children that play games featuring their favourite TV or film characters. Titles that are tie-ins with popular family films or even pop stars are growing in popularity.

Screenshot from Grand Theft Auto 3, Take 2
When bad is good: Grand Theft Auto 3
One title that is expected to appeal to this group is Britney's Dance Beat, a PlayStation 2 game featuring popstar Britney Spears that asks players to perform increasingly intricate routines to dance opponents off the screen.

Finally, there is a growing range of programs for older people who want to pursue other hobbies, such as gardening or genealogy, on their home computer.

The report said that magazines such as Active Life, which is aimed at the over-50s, now get as much response to stories and promotions involving computers as they do for those about travel.

The number of ways that people can get hold of games is also expanding.

Gradually games played via mobile phones are catching on as are those available to subscribers to some digital TV services.

See also:

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