Video gaming is fast becoming a mainstream entertainment activity.
Over the last six years the UK market for games has grown by 100% and was worth a record £1,152m in 2003, according to a report by analysts Screen Digest.
Spending on games has grown much faster than on other forms of entertainment like film or music.
The average PlayStation 2 player is in their twenties and more and more women are getting into games.
Is video gaming the future of entertainment? Are you a player? Send us your views on this trend. Will it last?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
I can't think of anything worse than sitting looking at a PC screen playing computer games. What do you learn ? That if you lose, you just press the rest button and have another go - or you find out how to cheat by looking up the cheat section on a web site. Great life skills.
Tracey, Surrey, UK
Not strictly "the future", it's certainly "the now". But it doesn't mean it's taken away other more traditional forms of entertainment i.e. walks in the country, going the pub or cinema like some people seem to suggest.
m Jackson [not Michael], Liverpool
I would call myself a game-addict, I play them when I return home from school and at the weekends. I have asked people to give their opinions on gaming. The majority that I asked said that they played computer games. So in my opinion, although they are meant as a form of entertainment, I think in years to come even school exams will be done on computers. Computers WILL become the future!
Scott, Aberchirder, Aberdeenshire
To all the critics who say that gaming is destructive and makes people antisocial losers: take a look at the vandalism around the country. Who's responsible for that - the geeky kid playing games on their pc/console, or the bored yob lounging on street corners?
Jason Miles, Reading, UK
I work for the armed forces, we use very expensive computer simulators to train people to fly aircraft, they are very similar to the games you see in the shops today, we also use video's to train people but they are not as effective mainly because you don't interact. Games are also good for training your memory, reactions, co-ordination.
When you can spend all of your waking hours in a fantasy world of your own making, who needs reality anyway?
I don't play games but my flatmate is by his own admission addicted to them. However at one point this year he lost use of his computer for a month and so had a month free of games. In this time I watched him change from someone prone to depression and stress to someone who was laughing a lot and looking forward to the future. When he got his computer back he became depressed again.
I may be one of the few women who play games. I see PC/console games as alternative to board games. More of a virtual board game, which can be quite hilarious when you get your parents round at Christmas to have a go!
I spent countless years as a teenager playing computer games, which I enjoyed very much. However my weight shot up during this time, from spending hours and hours in front of the computer. Now at 28, I have come down from 22 stone to 16, and feel much better for it. I have also taken up biking in place of gaming, which is helping to keep the weight off. By all means enjoy computer games, but make sure you exercise too!
I can live up to my dreams in games. Do a lot of things and have a lot of experiences which are not possible in real life. I can be a mayor, I can be an industrialist, a king or anyone I want to be. The future in games is more than in movies or travel or in any other entertainment business, in my opinion. Virtual life will become a place to hide the crude reality of life in days to come.
Mahi, Chittagong, Bangladesh
Saying games are for children is the same as saying films are for children. And don't forget the full title for computer games is interactive entertainment.
My niece and nephew do play on games consoles but spend far more time outside playing with their friends when the weather allows. Wrapping children up in cotton wool and insisting that they stay indoors will not do them, their social skills or health any good.
Kathryn, London, UK
I play video games everyday. It is by the far the best way to relax and can give increased visual acuity and hand-to-eye coordination in small doses. I feel that games are most definitely the way forward for entertainment as the technology is fast becoming powerful enough to mimic some of the better known forms of entertainment, like film.
As TV entertainment has been get so dire over the past 10 years, more and more people will move to alternative methods of entertainment. Gaming, Internet browsing is a good way to spend one's free time and to relax. It's certainly more enjoyable then constant repeats and 'reality' garbage we're fed on the box. Gaming will just get bigger and bigger and I've been gaming for just over 25yrs.
Darren, London, Uk
Playing computer games is part and parcel of the modern world. I think that parents should discourage their children from spending all their time on games consoles and take them out for a walk instead but it does have its benefits too: it's a social thing which is shared with friends, it encourages children to use their brains to work out quite complex problems and I'd also like to add that it has left me with incredibly dexterous thumbs.
Ann, Edinburgh, Scotland
As an avid gamer of 32 years, I assure you, video games are here to stay. However, this is nothing new. Games are as old as civilization itself, the only thing that has changed is the technology supporting them. My grandparents play bridge. My parents played Pac Man and Trivial Pursuit. I play on my computer, and my children will play on a gaming console. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Aaron Long, San Francisco, USA
I hope that games are not the future of entertainment. If that came to be, think of the consequences. Obesity would sky-rocket and our health care systems would collapse. A sedentary lifestyle is just as bad as a bad diet. How about instead of playing games on a computer, you get up off the couch, walk outside and play a real game. Or donating all that wasted time to volunteering to help out someone who has not the luxury to afford a computer game. Stop pretending that you're in a fake world and get involved in real life. It's a buzz!
Wallace Ryan, Newfoundland
My name is Iqra and I am 6. My favourite game is Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 on the PC.
Iqra, UK, Bradford
Games are enjoyable and safer than the streets. It's all well and good being told to go out and play in the streets but when we got kidnappers and violent repeat offenders on the streets and roaming. Then it's not safe for people to go out. I would rather my nephew sat and played mario or zelda where I can see him than if he was roaming the street where any crazy predator can abduct him. Games expand the mind and can help reading I know it helped my niece and nephew to read.
Andrew , United Kingdom Chesterfield
I have been playing computer games since the days of the BBC in the 80s and think they are a very enjoyable form of relaxation. The key is of course moderation - I hold down a full-time job and also study, but find several hours a week to relax playing them. I never allow it to become the priority over other commitments. It is a shame that most games are of poor quality, though a few games (e.g. Halo, Half-Life, Morrowind, Planescape: Torment) are truly fantastic and the fact that they have such talented people making them and that I have only a little time in the week to play them only heightens my enjoyment of them. The future is certainly bright for gaming, but remember to keep it all in perspective!
Marcus, Guildford, UK
I find these statistics very interesting, given that I am a games developer and have just been made redundant in the most horrible fashion, along with 130 colleagues, by the bankruptcy of my company this week. Like everything else, as soon as it becomes a lucrative market it becomes a dog-eat-dog world where big business does its best to ruin it for everyone - not least of which, those of us who make the games in the first place. Thankfully, I have Doom 3 to take my frustrations out on...
Medusa, Manchester, UK
I'm a retired man of 54 and I get an enormous amount of pleasure from the online role playing games that I indulge in. I enjoy the fantasy element (I'm a Sci/Fi fantasy book reader) and also the community element of the games I play. There seems to be little or no ageism, sexism or racism - and folk of any age or gender are always happy to help. The games do seem to be aimed at a young male audience (all the female character seem to be very, busty and alluring) but when you actually play the games they are fun - and that is what people seem to want, games give more input to the fun than passively watching TV.
Ozzie, Lincoln, UK
I am 13 and have been playing games all my life. In that time I have been to Vietnam, Stalingrad Vice City, Halo, Black Mesa and the mushroom kingdom. I have been a soldier, a scientist, a general, a plumber and god. Gaming lets you see things in a different perspective from the real world and is just another medium which can help express ideas and emotions.
James Thiemann, UK
I have worked for a gaming company in the past three years, and though I am not a rabid gamer, I have gained an admiration for developers. Gaming has come a long way since I was a little girl, and I believe that gaming helps improve problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination, and is not exclusive to one person. Many people meet others gaming online. I know a couple who met in such a way, and they are now married, one was from Denmark and the other from the US and they have settled in America. As long as people are moderate in their use, I do not see a problem with gaming.
Jenna, Austin, Texas USA
I think it's ironic to see all of the get out and exercise comments in an online chat forum. Might have to get out my hypocrite stick.
Philip, Ottawa, Canada
I am a 54-year-old married female. I love PC games both online and off and my PlayStation. After a hard days work I love to game instead of watching TV. I play competitive sport, read, holiday and lead a full life. Now why do I feel guilty when I play a game for a few hours? Maybe because my favourites are the ones when I commit multiple murder and love it!
Sheila, London, UK
The article got me thinking about how I spend my time. I'm 29 and have been a gamer since the age of 10. I know a lot of gamers (in real life) and would say I'm pretty typical. My average week probably pans out as follows:
Time spent working 55 hours
Time spent sleeping 49
Quality time with girlfriend 28
Reading the news 7
Reading fiction 4
Beach/swimming pool 4
Big Brother 0
Binman Idol 0
Any other similar, contrived, dumbed down, mindless trash on TV 0
Confusing fiction & reality 0
A game of football, squash, a swim, or a bike ride gives me all the exercise I need. During an evening, I enjoy a little mental gymnastics with a few online friends. Quite why this is seen as sad is beyond me. Maybe it's because those who criticise don't understand it? It's not the future of entertainment, it's happening now.
Kevin, Leeds, UK
I play for a few hours a week and have managed to cut down dramatically over the past year because I found I was wasting too much time. I now invest my time in research and Martial Arts. Best move I ever made. Why excel in an artificial world when you can excel in the real world? Games are a complete and total waste of time and do nothing but weaken the human being physically and mentally.
HM, London, UK
The vast majority of online gamers are middle-aged women. Not young men playing fantasy games, but housewives and working women unwinding with a match of chequers or hearts with a friend they have made from playing online games. Stereotypes are the preserve of the ignorant, and in the case of those who see games as akin to voodoo, foolish. I have killed literally millions of virtual people over the last 24 years, and not been in a single real-life fight in over 13 years.
My girlfriend and I enjoy a game on the Play station as much as we enjoy or film or going out for a walk. I like to think that we settle some of our quibbles by playing the fighting games. Just a pity she's so much better at them than I!
Gaming? Do people really have that much time to waste sitting round playing games like these? Personally, I would rather chat face to face with friends when I have free time. Seems rather isolating if you ask me.
Georgina, Bristol, UK
Teenagers become withdrawn and their communication skills are next to non-existent at around 15, 16 etc. This has always been the way so how come some seem to think that video games are now responsible for a natural growth occurrence?
Max Richards, Wales
I'm 33, in full time employment, have a wife and 3 beautiful kids. I play a lot of online multiplayer games such as Battlefield Vietnam. I play for a clan and we use voice chat etc. Through playing for the clan I have found a great bunch of new friends. These guys are all between 17 and 45 and all have different social backgrounds, yet we all get along and some of us have even met up on occasions. Gaming is good for you, you meet new people and there's no harm in that is there?
Dermot, Co Fermanagh, N. Ireland
I'm the UK's best female gamer, and came second in the overall competition. I know a lot of gamers, and we're not all hiding in our rooms playing games all day. A lot of our gamers are, or have been, to university and hold good jobs. Games don't harm people. They help you improve hand-eye co-ordination, teach you to think outside the box and be creative in ideas. Not all games are about death and destruction.
Michelle Homewood, UK
The vast majority of video games on today's market are rubbish. I'd say 99% of them are complete junk. The elite few which I think are good, however, often keep me entertained for weeks, months, and sometimes even years. Those which keep me hooked for months or years are always online games, by the way. Books and movies only provide entertainment for a week, or a few hours, respectively.
Ben, Vienna, Austria
At 28 years old, married and hoping to have our first child within the next 3 years I'm more than happy to say I'm a gamer. I've been playing since I was a kid, it's never done me any harm, it's just something better than TV. My wife now plays games as well, and not just solitaire. Working our way through co-operative role playing games or shooters keeps us both entertained more than TV could ever hope to.
Tim Powell, Basingstoke, UK
It was Plato who said that "You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation". I know the character traits of a lot of my friends very well thanks to multiplayer gaming.
Games have been a part of human culture for thousands of years. My hope is that the computer games industry (of which I am a part) will break free of its limiting assumptions about who a "gamer" is and what they want. I look forward to a time when game development becomes a truly innovative process. Game play has the potential to challenge people's minds, engage their emotions, and encourage human interaction. If it fulfilled its potential and replaced the TV in people's living rooms the world might be a better place.
Sandy, London, UK
I have been a keen gamer for a number of years. It started when I got a computer for Xmas back in '83. Games have developed tremendously - recently I have been playing with my Xbox online - chatting and racing against people. Excellent fun and a much better and interactive form of entertainment than looking at the goggle box for the same length of time.
Paul, Malvern, UK
Personally I would love games to be a recognised art form. As talented as painters are, a painting is a painting. Videogame designers are constantly trying to recreate a virtual world in 3D, and their goal seems to get as close to reality as possible.
David Monk, Wolverhampton, UK
It always intrigues me when I see comments railing against people playing games, saying that the 'country would be a better place if these people got off their backsides and played sports'. It saddens me that people believe that mental activity is a poor second cousin to physical. Would these people take up the same battle cry if we were told that increasing numbers of young people were reading books?
Rik Feilden, Sheffield, UK
Hi, My nephew, who is a bright enough lad, has been playing computer games for years with little, if any, intervention from his parents. He's now very introverted and says virtually nothing. He has just achieved two GCSE's above grade 'C' and did not pass maths. I don't think these games have done him any favours and I'm worried about how he is going to cope outside the cyber world.
JPH from Harrogate: Computer / video games don't make you unsocial, introverted or whatever. Other factors do that. However, unsocial and introverted might tend to be more likely to seek an escape from the real world in games as they, arguably, can be more fun. If games didn't exist, then your nephew would probably watch TV or read tons of books instead.
Ben, Vienna, Austria
Games keep youngsters from spending their entire lives hanging round on street corners causing trouble. The way the UK is at the moment there is nothing else to do apart from play games. The "compensation culture" has prevented a lot of young people from doing the activities that I did back in the 80's.
Also, everything I know about computers (a lot more than most PC World sales staff) is through building and upgrading computers to play games. I am a 22 year old guy in a long term relationship, with a respectable job and a good social life. I have had a computer since the days of the Amstrad CPC in 1984.
Dave, Slough, UK
Why are there so many kill-joys out there. Have they not noticed that they are called "games" because they are FUN. The last game that most of the anti-gamers here played was something like Mario world 3. Games have taken giant steps forward since then and are no longer so mind-numbingly dull. And by the way, games are not all completely made up. Look at Call of Duty(the beast game ever) and Battlefield Vietnam. They actually happened. They are (nearly) real.
Will Buxton, Herts
Playing that computer game made me kill him. Watching that film made me kill him. Playing that record backwards made me kill him. Perhaps it's time to start putting intellectual ratings on entertainment, and not just age ratings!
Lee, Hebburn, England
I work making games. The hours are long, hard work, dealing with mismanagement of vast amounts. The pay is poor. The staff turnover is high. The games that come out are generally of poor quality but look nice. I have no certainty in my career, yet they seem to gross this amount of money. If the industry is to become more mainstream and improve, the staff need rewarding for the work they do.
Last I was aware, gaming is already a mainstream industry. However, there are many misconceptions about it that make it appear otherwise. Like that video games are for children, or that they are a substitute for the "real world". Personally, I'm 23, no longer a child, and I still enjoy video games. Probably now more than I ever did when I was a youngster, due to the depth and narrative that can appear in games these days. However, I still enjoy an active social life and work during the day, showing that you can indeed enjoy games and have a "life" at the same time. What a revelation! Indeed, thanks to online gaming, the majority of gamers I play with are anywhere from their 20's to their 40's or over. Children? I think not.
Also, I've played probably nearly every violent game on the market, and have never murdered, raped, or beaten anyone. But then again, my parents paid attention to me and what I was doing and what I bought when I was a kid, so maybe that's a factor?
Matt, Coulsdon, Surrey, UK
I don't think it will have a chance at mainstream entertainment until people ditch the nerd image associated with it. Most gamers are not fat/lazy/jobless/single guys that most people who have never even switched a PC on with seem to think. That's just the way the media has illustrated it the last few years because of a few people who became overly addicted.
John Grimshaw, Manchester UK
Looking at the huge leaps forward that gaming has taken over the last few decades its easy to see that this is a hobby and an industry with massive potential. With games today as impressive as they are, the games of ten years time will be truly stunning. The fact that the industry doesn't yet cater much for women or older people just means it has that much more potential for growth in the future.
Robin, Leeds, UK
Games you take part in, other entertainment you sit and receive. The others will not disappear completely but games are only just getting going and are very varied. There are pensioners playing card games and jigsaws to toddlers using interactive teaching games, and everything for all ages between. Why would anyone do anything else!
James StGeorge, London, England
Bill (below) asks how many murders have been attributed to computer games. Assuming that by attribution he means a clear and demonstrable link between a game and a murder the answer is none. People who can't distinguish reality and fantasy are as likely to be triggered into crime by the 10 O'clock News.
Iain, Cambs, UK
I'm sick of people saying that violent games causes violence in reality. I play Grand Theft Auto and love mowing down police officers in a stolen SWAT van, running through crowded areas spraying machine-gun fire and seeing how many people I can kill with a single shot from a rocket launcher. So how many people have I killed in real life? None. The fact is that there was rape, murder and violence before the Play station hit the shelves. Trying to blame a game for someone's actions is nothing more than a pathetic refusal to accept personal responsibility. I can just imagine a hit-and-run driver claiming they felt compelled to do it after playing Grand Theft Auto. Get real people.
Karl Peters, UK
Considering the competition in the Entertainment Industry and it's price relative to what you can buy for £20 gaming will become the Leader in the entertainment industry in my opinion for sheer lack of financial competition. Being a gamer of many years I can't say I am complaining too much but I do fear the quality of game play has already begun to drop sharply. I foresee more interactive movies etc that will be developed due to this rise in gaming popularity. Will we ever see Olympic Medals for gaming? Well we will have to watch and see.
Bill - not a single murder has been attributed to a video game.
Derek, Cambridge, UK
I am in my 50s and have been a keen player of strategy games for years. I revel in Command Conquer and other real time strategy games (who says you have to be a teenager to have all the fun!). My reason for writing is to say that computer games will continue to grow enormously in future years, and will take over as one of (if not the) premier form of entertainment. Why do I say this? Because a few weeks ago I got hooked on another form of PC game. I hooked up a force-feedback steering wheel and pedals, loaded up Colin McRae Rally 04 and went rally driving. I am a real life rally driver and this is the closest thing to driving a rally car without actually being in one. I cant wait for virtual reality to get to speed, then no-one will get me out of my car (err... computer).
Simon Westerly, Birmingham, UK
Speaking as a marathon runner, footballer, business owner, and keen games player - playing games, keeping physically active and "having a life in the real world" are not mutually exclusive. From these comments, I'm sure that some people would prefer that I sat at home from 7-9 every night staring at mind-numbing soap operas.
Why am I not surprised to see a comment blaming gaming for murders? The sort of person who can't distinguish fantasy from reality don't need games to trigger them, but the games still get blamed by those looking for a scapegoat-style explanation.
Robert, Coventry, UK
I have been playing games for about 8 years now, and there is one thing I have learned: everything in moderation. Games can make you unproductive and unmotivated, but you can still enjoy them. Just don't become so attached that you start to blur the lines between the game world and the real.
Shane, Colorado, USA
I love computer games, from wild car chases to simulations of the real world to thoughtful puzzles! A fantastic way to spend an afternoon!
Lisa Johnson, Essex
It's daft to suggest video games will somehow take over from other forms of entertainment. Books, films, sport, will all go on as they have for years. But video games will increasingly be an alternative draw on leisure time as they slowly become more accessible and accepted.
Leighton, Midlands, UK
I'm a 34 year old female and have been playing video games on and off since the days of the "bat and ball" TV consoles of the 70s. I'm educated to postgraduate level and pretty well socialised so it hasn't turned me into a sad, geeky, couch-potato! On the contrary I feel it's an important element of my family life as it gives my 8 year old and I a common bond and shared hobby. I'm also extremely careful about the suitability of the games we play and always adhere to the age-ratings - plus by taking an interest in something that he really enjoys he has more respect for my point of view when it comes to monitoring his usage.
Online gaming is not the future of entertainment, it is already here. Not just speaking for myself, but untold others, video gaming is now considered to be a frequent social sport. It is now easier to socialise with people all over the country from the comfort of your own lounge, more so than it would be if you went to the local pub.
Neil Lewis, UK
I'm not surprised by these findings. I find less and less to watch on TV and get much more enjoyment and entertainment from my PS2. The stigma that gaming is for children is starting to loosen. I fully envisage gaming for some time to come...well, for as long as my girlfriend will let me!
I've been messing around with computers since 1980, as a hobby at first and then professionally. The games have never been interesting enough to spend more than 10 minutes on. Maybe when they are fully immersive VR they will be - but I doubt it. Most films may be rubbish but they are cheaper, a shared experience and don't annoy you when you're on a train. Like most IT, games are over-priced, promise what they never deliver and waste more time than expected.
I have been playing computer games over the internet for roughly 4 years now, and it has brought me close to many people I would consider friends, and even more people I have had the fortune to meet and have some really enjoyable memories.
Tom Andrews, Bexley, England
I think much of the negative comments on this topic come from those who misunderstand the term "game". Football is also merely a game, but does that make all football supporters sad? I do not own a TV, because I don't find it stimulating anymore. One thing you can't do with a computer game is vegetate in front of it if you wish to do well.
Paul Beckett, London, UK
I am alarmed that so many of your contributors have such a blinded view of gaming - perhaps they have read too much mass media, or not tried it themselves. Gaming stimulates the conversation of many generations, it enhances hand-eye co-ordination. It teaches strategic thought, quick reactions and careful planning. Gaming will lift off, whether people like it or not - already designers are beginning to think outside the box.
Michael Cook, Bournemouth, UK
It may be the future of entertainment, but it seems it won't be grown here. Most of my friends who work in all areas of computer games are either looking for work in other fields, such as film, or leaving the UK.
Some play sports, others read, some enjoy cooking and others play computer games. What's the problem?
Russ, Warwick, UK
I think it already is the entertainment, worryingly so. Fortunately my boys are too young to know about such devices but the eldest knows about the computer and already goes through phases where that's all he wants to do. I make sure he doesn't but it is very worrying. What happened to making your own fun, outdoors?
People are switching off their TVs in favour of video games because they're interactive, fun, challenging and increasingly bring people together. With recent studies suggesting that they can be beneficial to intelligence as well, more and more people are accepting them as wholesome entertainment. And surely it has to be better for kids to be playing games with their friends than sitting alone watching TV for hours on end...
Matt Wood, St. Asaph, Wales
Despite being a software consultant and analyst/programmer of 21+ years standing, I have never found computer games at all compelling. Some of them are quite amusing at first, and some even have a certain amount of compulsion initially. But that is only until you work out the strategy for winning. Then they just become as boring as any other endlessly-repeated entertainment.
David Hazel, Fareham, UK
I disagree with Rodger from London (below) who said that the UK never looks positively on games development. The UK is one of the largest game developing nations and many games like Grand Theft Auto, Black & White and Tomb Raider were developed here in the UK. They all became global hits. Over the next few years with PC's and consoles getting more powerful, I think the lines between game and film will blur even more with truly interactive games, and broadband will also help this become more successful, both in multiplayer and in content delivery.
Tane Piper, Edinburgh
I play sports and online PC games competitively in organised leagues. The similarities between a sporting & a gaming community are marked. A group of people with similar interests just having competitive fun. Broadband is revolutionising games, the next generation of consoles with mature on-line capabilities will bring a change to the stereotype of the couch potato console gamer.
I accept that games are no longer "just for children" and that in terms of both graphical presentation and storytelling they are becoming more sophisticated. What does depress me, though, is the number of people here who seem to regard their leisure time as being EITHER gaming OR vegetating in front of a TV. Are those the only two options you have? How about reading a book?
Dave, London, UK
It's not video gaming that is the future, it's online gaming, Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) to be precise. With console or single player games, the entertainment finishes as soon as the game is completed. With MMOG, the game never ends because you are always playing with and meeting new people. It's a whole new arena for social interaction with massive potential revenue streams for the people who develop the successful titles e.g. Planetside, StarWars Galaxies, etc
I believe the 100% growth within the game market is largely due to excessive price points. Although this is beneficial for large suppliers such as Sony, retailers are missing out. Small/independent high street retailers cannot afford to order in large quantities which would guarantee them a decent margin. If the games industry is to continue to grow successfully over the next few years innovative and unique products need to be sourced.
Amy, London, UK
Last night I cooperated with individuals ranging from 14 to 38, from nations as diverse as Japan, Germany, the U.S. and U.K. as well as my own, Canada. We cooperated with efficiency and camaraderie, for the Japanese who spoke no English a translation service was used for all of us to communicate. I was playing Final Fantasy 11, an online game, and in doing so, made friends with people from three continents. Sure beats watching survivor anyways.
Phil, Ottawa, Canada
UK turning into nation of gamers? Shame the BBC still doesn't have any gaming programs on TV for us...
I've been gaming nearly all my life, and I love it! There is only one problem I have noticed, however, and that is the constant need to upgrade my PC. Recently I had to purchase a new graphics board, and soon it will be more RAM, and then a processor etc, etc, etc. The cost mounts, and add that to the cost of games, I wouldn't be surprised if I have spent several hundred pounds on gaming, and I wish I hadn't.
Tim, Ramsey, UK
Gaming is become a bigger factor within entertainment industry in my opinion. I've played games online within a competitive scene for the last 4-5 years. And the amount of online players has continued to grow. However gaming is expanding to even bigger limits. Such as the CPL tournament held annually in the states, which offers players to win cash prizes in the region of £50,000. With more tournaments being held not just globally but in the UK, such as the EOGC tournament being held in London this week, gaming will become even more of a bigger factor within entertainment.
Killing people in computer games is all about the challenge; it's about moving better, aiming straighter and reacting faster than others. It is not about violence it is, like sport, about striving to be better than your opponents whilst having fun. When I hear an announcer tell me I am on a 'Killing Spree', I am pleased for no other reason than because I am out-playing others.
James, Oxford, UK
Video games offer an interactive escape from reality, an ideal way to unwind from a hard day at work, a delayed journey home, or just to put the brain into neutral for a while. So many people blame them for violence but conveniently ignore the millions of copies of games sold that don't result in someone going on the rampage. I enjoy playing games like Grand Theft Auto and driving like a moron but, like the vast majority of adults, appreciate that what is appropriate behaviour in the context of a game is not necessarily appropriate behaviour when behind the wheel of a real car.
John B, UK
These gadgets are just great if you happen to be (a) lacking in imagination, (b) single with no intentions of having a social life or (c) just plain stupid. Not only are they non-productive, they are highly addictive and will probably be our ultimate downfall once we have evolved to the point of no longer having legs. It should only take a couple of generations before all these gamers are too obese, weak, or both, to function as socially-minded human beings. Just try talking to a gamer - it's like watching Star Trek. Nuff said...
Ferg, Sheffield, UK
Games aren't the future of entertainment. They're the present of entertainment. I'd thought that was pretty clear with the skyrocketing sales and the fact that the people in my office are more likely to talk about the games they're playing than what the were watching on TV last night. Oh, and for anyone who doesn't think it's "mainstream" entertainment because women are only a minority group, does that mean that football is a niche interest?
Rarely have I had as much fun as when I recently discovered my housemate owned a copy of Timesplitters on the PS2. Not only was the game itself a great deal of fun, but the multiplayer environment led to many hilarious japes, and provided some excellent common ground between new friends. It's not all mindless lonely button tapping any more. Gaming has evolved into a social activity that relies on cooperation and mental dexterity to progress.
Richard, Loughboro, UK
Having been a gamer for many years the one change I'd like to see is some investment in the storylines and not just the mechanics/physics of the games. Games increasingly make you the protagonist in an interactive movie. The problem is it's usually a bad B movie. More intelligent back story and thought put into the overall script would make the games more fulfilling. As well as programmers the games designers should try employing scriptwriters. Though not Hollywood scriptwriters. The one game I thoroughly enjoy is the THIEF series. They have a well plotted storyline and you feel you are in an unfolding story not simply amassing a body count.
Joseph Wilkinson, Whitehaven, Cumbria
I do have to laugh at people that tell us online gamers to "grow up" and "get out more". Where else would I get to know so many people from all over the world so quickly, find out about their weird customs, visit off the beaten track towns, sample their local cuisine... and then shoot them?
Scott Baldry, Bristol
Bill, Lanarkshire (below) is but one in a long list of superstitious scaremongerers. It is a long and noble tradition, filled with horror stories of cameras stealing your soul and the like. The idea that the line between reality and fantasy is somehow blurred, as if by witchcraft or possession is, quite frankly, ridiculous.
Matt, Amsterdam, Netherlands (ex UK)
To say that people who play violent video games will be inspired to commit murder is frankly rather insulting. I, and many other fans of video games can see the difference between them and real life and they don't "blur reality and fiction". Imagine if I said that watching "Trainspotting" turned you into a heroin addict or reading a Steven King book would lead you to kill a bunch of people at random. This is just pointless scapegoating.
Max, Bedfordshire, UK
The level of interactivity is increasing with players able to become more immersed in a computer generated situation. As a gamer I love the escape from reality, but I do worry that one day we may become a lot less sociable as a result and lose vital skills in interacting and communicating with other people face to face.
Nick, Sutton, surrey
Yes. But the consumer will get wiser and come to realise the complete lack of innovation that exists in the industry at present. Many games are stale remakes in pretty packaging. We need new, challenging and entertaining genres to take the industry to the next level.
Neil Corbett, Dorset
Within the next 5 years, the technology to project an image directly onto the retina will cost affordable. This technology will enable games to merge seamlessly into a gamer's perception of the physical world around them.
Ben, Cardiff, UK
A few simple words of warning. Computer games require constant use of the hands in a repetitive fashion. Quite bearable for months and some years, but RSI invariably hits which affects both the ability to game and the ability to use a keyboard! I used to play a great deal, however I have significantly limited this as I feel my ability to maintain an IT related career is more important!
Simon Mallett, UK, Maidstone
Bill from Lanarkshire (below): the number of murders directly attributed to video games is approximately none. Computer games don't blur the line between reality and fantasy. They are totally different from one another. One is seen on the telly and involves killing aliens or collecting magical gems. The other involves working in an accountancy firm.
Tony Colquhoun, Millport
Well, as a 50 year old female gamer, I really enjoy working through the adventure games I play (1st & 3rd person shooting games usually!) My teenage son says I am hopeless but at least we have something to talk about and he still comes to me when he gets stuck. My husband decided a long time ago that he is actually married to a teenage boy...
Soo, Plymouth, UK
Personally I love pc games, particularly The Sims series (I can control a whole world from the comfort of my living room!)
I remember people I worked with saying that VCR's would never catch on. Then they said computers were a waste of time and computer games were a fad. 30 years on VCR's, computers and computer games are still here bigger better than before. That's what I love about the UK, always shooting itself in the foot and never looking positively on innovation. If we keep thinking like this we'll be left behind.
Roger, London, UK
The problem is that many games are addictive and for their players can blur the boundaries of fantasy and reality. Add to this many of them are based on violence and killing - and you have a very disturbing situation. How many murders have been attributed to them?
Bill - "How many murders have been attributed to them?" Errr. None that I'm aware of. The media try to whip people up, and some lawyers have attempted to sue the game makers for compensation. None successfully. 20 years ago you'd have blamed video nasties.
The success of video gaming cannot be dissociated from the widespread access to broadband Internet connections. Working for a game development studio, I am astonished, and delighted, to see worldwide communities grow up around our games. And not only do these communities span oceans, they also span age-groups. One of the most respected players of one of our games is over 70 years old! It is this real-time interaction that really explains the massive growth of the market.
Joe Ryan, Chartres, France
Gaming is already a huge entertainment industry. People are spending more money on games than they are music or cinema tickets. It is interesting to note that the key demographic here is NOT children. It is adults (male) between the ages of 25-35 (with the age limit shifting upwards all the time). A recent study in America has shown that American men are turning away from the TV in droves so they can spend more time playing console or PC games. Psychologists were also surprised to find that online gamers were well-rounded individuals who enjoyed the games for what they are, and have built up active communities around these games.
A. Ogley, Almere, Holland
I don't think gaming is the future of entertainment. The rise in popularity over the past decade has superseded expectations but manufacturers are struggling to come up with new and innovative gaming experiences. The hand held vision is purely hype that the console makers are pushing because the next generation consoles will not be radically different from the last. I believe that the current generation of games consoles is the near enough the plateau of the industry as we know it.
I used to be a fairly keen gamer. I enjoyed evenings with mates playing GoldenEye on the N64, Soul Calibur on the DreamCast and Tekken on the PS2. Then along came fatherhood, and I haven't played a game in nearly a year. Can't say I miss them either - the games that is, not my mates! But I am looking forward to playing games with my son when he is old enough. No doubt he will give this ageing gamer a good virtual kicking!
John Franklin, Congleton, UK
Larger games companies already have development budgets comparable to the cost of some smaller movies, not to mention a rather depressing tendency to follow a more formulaic approach with regards to games content. Still, games are a logical progression for a generation brought up on TV, and at least provide the potential for person-person interaction (even if it is only to blow them up with the largest weapon available).
Keith, London, UK
PC and Console gamers are not the fat lazy unsociable people we seem to be portrayed as. I go to the gym everyday before work, I work a full day in the office and then come home and instead of slumping down in front of some inane soap I play some games either on-line with other people or just hack my way through a single player game. The point is there is no right or wrong way to unwind - some people choose TV some people play games. I really don't see the difference.
My daughter's boyfriend spends hours on his play station. His favourite game is one where you drive a car very fast and knock down lots of people. He is a responsible human being and says the game gives him the ability to do all the things he could never do in real life. But what about those who are too young, or too ignorant to see the difference between game and reality? I can see a strong resemblance between this game and real life boy racers who take cars to drive as fast as they can and do not realise, or do not care, how much damage they do. These games can make you lose you your grasp on reality, and that is the greatest danger.
Alison, Margate, UK
I have been playing computer games since my mother bought me a game boy for my 9th birthday. Thirteen years later I still prefer them to television, they are interactive and often provide a good intellectual challenge.
Omide Deinali, Newcastle, UK
What's all the abuse about couch potatoes? People who read, write poetry, talk to their friends, have dinner parties and even play with their children all do it sitting around. Even the criticism of the mainly solitary nature of gaming is hardly a winner compared to the solitary nature of reading or going to the gym.
Al, W'Ton, UK
I've been playing games since my Speccy and Amstrad CPC 464 and the revolution that has taken place since the 1980s has been incredible. I would say that it is this generation of gamers that has had the biggest impact on today's gaming - no longer must we wait for our birthday or Christmas to come around. We work and have money to purchase the games we want as soon as their released. Advice to all gamers out there: please read reviews across a broad spectrum before purchasing a game based on one review. There was recently a game that got top marks in the "official" console magazines while being slated by all the sensible magazines, yet it got to number one. This makes the charts look bad and angered loads of gamers who wasted their hard earned money.
Tony B, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Having worked in the Games biz for over a decade for some of the biggest companies, including Sony, I do honestly think that games are the way of the future. There is something for everyone. Some people say that it's promoting obesity. To them I say take a look at "Dance Dance Revolution"! However, the industry is not in the golden state these figures suggest. Large companies are soaking up the profits and companies are closing at an alarming rate. Only a few days ago one of the largest (Acclaim) went bang, laying off there entire workforce. Unless the government helps, the UK games industry is doomed.
Gaming gets the same bad press that cinema did in the 30s-50s. People assume its children's entertainment, then maturity grows into the genre. Same as cinema, same as comics. Companies should take risks and push the genre into maturity. It is already happening. Look at Doom 3 and tell me games aren't mature. Look at Rome: Total War and Far Cry and tell me games are mental chewing gum.
Ross Pearson, Harrow, England
Hopefully with the increase in sales of video games will come a mainstream acceptance of this form of entertainment. The realisation that the average gamer is likely to be in their 20s will lead to less of the type of scare stories we read in the press over "violent" video games.
Paul, Southampton, UK
Things are really no less cloudy in terms of the future than they were around 25 years ago when Space Invaders came out. Back then, people could code games in their bedrooms, and the outlay was so low that it was possible to experiment, and take fresh approaches to gaming. However, technology still marches onward, making the games sonically and graphically more appealing, but at the expense of spiralling production costs which both inhibit innovation and practically keep all but the biggest players out of the market.
Without the innovation to keep things fresh, gaming will quickly stagnate, as there's only so many times you can improve the graphics on a hackneyed idea. At least companies such as Nintendo are aware of this, but whether they'll be able to survive in a world where bigger and better graphics seem to be the major driving force is sadly debateable.
Kev Beeley, West Sussex
Being an avid gamer myself, I definitely prefer the type of interactive entertainment that video games provide than just plain old TV programs. Most other entertainment, like music, movie or TV, are passive entertainment and are good when you just want to sit back and relax. When a video games are done well, it can evoke people's emotion just as well as movies. A fine example of such is the Final Fantasy game series. Its story telling and presentation keeps players involved and they grow like the characters in the game. I can't wait for the next instalment to hit the store shelves.
Wei Li Hur, London
There is a very stereotypical image of an adult game player as a man who spends all his time sitting on his couch with no friends playing games. This simply isn't true anymore. The truth is "The Sims" was the biggest selling game of all time and sold more copies to women than men. Also, instead of mindlessly watching television some of us choose to interact with a game such as "Planetside" which allows hundreds of people to team up and play together. My wife and I go to the gym spend time outdoors and meet with friends but we also play computer games together. The computer game industry has grown hugely every year since it started and as long as Moore's law continues and the realism gets better and better, the industry will keep growing. It's not a FAD it's here to stay.
Hugh MacKenzie, Aberdeen
As a computer game widow, I feel I have a unique perspective on gaming. My partner probably spends as much time playing online games as many men do in front of the TV. However, online gaming allows players from all over the world to interact in real time, so it's no longer an isolated world. My partner has made some really good friends with some nice, normal, interesting people from all over the world, many of who I've met. As a way of relaxing, it's a stimulating sociable pass-time that beats TV!
Alison, Leeds, UK
I would think gaming is already, rather than becoming, a mainstream form of entertainment. It has all the narrative & visual benefits of TV and movies, with the added benefit of interaction.
Alan White, Glasgow, Scotland
The film and music industries matured many years ago and leave little to offer in the way of future advancements. In comparison the video games industry has unlimited potential at this time and will easily overtake these other industries. I don't see for example interactive movies being a success in comparison to games with movie like storylines, which in fact are already here. The future however, is online gaming. Playing games against people across the globe is infinitely more rewarding than any other form of entertainment. Not to say I will stop going to the cinema!
I don't own a TV and scarcely know what a Video Game is. I do use a computer because I have to for my line of work. Otherwise I believe we should reject easy-option mental-chewing gum technology and live REAL LIVES in that big thing out there called REALITY.
Rob, Yorkshire, England, UK
Can't stand them personally. Give me the outdoors, a ball, or an evening in the gym any day.
I am 24 and have been playing video games since I was about 5. I spend more time playing games than watching TV as I find it more rewarding. You don't have to use much brain power to watch the soaps but its a different story when playing a good game. Spending approx £30 for 80 hours plus entertainment is a bargain to me. Peopleople spend £20 on a DVD and watch it once.
Adam Graham, Sunderland
No, videogames are not the future of entertainment, at least not in their current form. The problem that games have is that they are way too reliant on young-demographic-oriented formulae, which caps their ability to develop into a full fledged ubiquitous medium like the book or the TV show. While the market has surged in recent years, that spurt of growth is going to level off soon and the market will acquire the sort of stable niche that pop music has. It'll be for the kids, rearing its head only occasionally into the mainstream media, and otherwise make a lot of stable cash for a few large companies.
Anonymous Developer, London
Well, I'm apparently classed into being an average PS2 player, being a male in my twenties and I have to admit, I probably spend a gross amount of money on games. But I quite firmly believe that gaming won't be the "Future of entertainment", as gaming is still a male-orientated industry. Until more games are designed for the female market, I don't believe it can claim to be mainstream.
Andy Campbell, Yate, Bristol.
With the ever increasing power of PC's which drive better graphics, gaming is set to grow and grow, and its the drive for ever better graphics that will drive the increase in processing power. I just wish that people would realise that it not violent games that cause problems, its poor parenting and upbringing.
Paul Warner, Amersham, England
It takes a very sad individual to become engrossed in games. The country would be a better place if these couch potatoes got off their backsides and did some sport.
I do think video games are rapidly becoming part of the entertainment mainstream, but they're changing shape as they do so. The games that become truly mainstream won't be the "Doom" and "Mario" games traditionally associated with the past-time, but are more likely to be along the lines of "The Sims" series, which has already been hugely successful with audiences who wouldn't consider themselves to be gamers.
Oliver Mulvey, Cambridge, UK
It's not just games, but the increasing amount of interactivity they allow both with the games themselves and other users. Given the choice of gaming or simply vegetating in front of a television set I'd choose the former any day of the week. Plus games can be used for education and are proven tools for enhancing hand-eye co-ordination.
Gareth Rippingale, UK
Video gaming is a fashion like any other and very soon will come the inevitable backlash. By 2006 kids will be enjoying marbles and conkers, and adults will be playing whist, cribbage and shove ha'penny. By 2008 hopscotch will have replaced the games console. By 2010 computers will seem like a silly and embarrassing fad, a bit like rubiks cubes or space hoppers. It's an historical certainty.
Willard Peters, Burbank, California, US
More fun than exercise - and you can munch on food at the same time!
Lucy Caird, Southampton, Hampshire
My PC is now my entertainment. I haven't owned a TV set or VCR in years.
Tom, Reading, UK
Not the future of entertainment hopefully - or there'll be a lot of disgruntled girlfriends like me battling to get some of their boyfriends time!
Mia, North East, UK