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Last Updated: Friday, 29 August, 2003, 04:10 GMT 05:10 UK
Britons' love affair with games
Alfred Hermida
By Alfred Hermida
BBC News Online technology editor

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Britain is turning into a nation of keen gamers, research by the UK games industry trade body suggests.

A study by the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association says that soon more people could be playing games than watching TV.

"Over the last 15 years entertainment software has emerged as the dominant youth pastime," says the report.

It says new ways of controlling games, such as with Sony's EyeToy camera, will broaden the appeal of video games.

Rock and roll

Figures suggest that games are rivalling other forms of entertainment like film and music, with Britons spending more than 1bn on games software last year alone.

Music: 2,016m
Games: 1,081m
Cinema: 755m
Video rentals: 476m
Source: Elspa

In the past, a top selling game would sell around 300,000 copies compared to sales of three or four million for a music CD.

But Elspa says this is changing, point to the success of gangster title Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. It sold a million copies in two months leading up to Christmas, the same as Robbie Williams' number one album, Escapology.

Their study attributes the growing appeal of games to several factors. It says a generational shift is taking place in terms of what people do with their spare time.

"The children who grew up in arcades playing Pac Man and Asteroids are now in their thirties and forties," says the study. "The kids who embraced Sonic and Mario with such fervour are now twentysomethings."

The research compares the rise of gaming to the appearance of rock and roll in the 1960s. At the time, that was something parents did not 'get'. Now the situation is the same with games, says Elspa.

And The popularity of consoles like the PlayStation 2 has helped to move gaming out of the bedroom and into the living.

"Games machines are on the road to mass acceptance," says Elspa.

Recognised artform

The study outlines the pervasive influence of games, with some making the jump from the small to the big screen, such as Tomb Raider. But beyond that, movies have adopted the language of games.

Screenshot from Vice City
Vice City: Sold millions of copies in just a few weeks
"It's possible to argue that films such as The Matrix, Terminator II and T3 are structured like video games, each with plots that feature levels of increasing difficulty," says the study.

There has also been a crossover between the games and music industry, with film composers writing scores for games or songs in titles going on to become chart hits.

At the same time, there has been a growing recognition of games as a form of art, with exhibitions at places such as the Design Museum and the Barbican in London.

"Games are here to stay," concludes the Elspa study. "Indeed, there's a strong argument that interactive entertainment could take on the mantle of TV and become the medium that will dominate the age."

The white paper was released to coincide with London Games Week, which brings together a range of industry and consumer events around the capital.

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