Last year, video-game software and hardware raked in more than $25 billion, according to the Entertainment Software Association, a gaming industry trade group. Compare that with the $7.3 billion the association reported in 2004, and it's not hard to see what's happening.
Last year's "Call of Duty: Black Ops" didn't just break video-game records. Selling 5.6 million copies in 24 hours and grossing $650 million in its first five days, it was the biggest entertainment opening of all time -- bigger than "Titanic," "Avatar" and every other Hollywood blockbuster.
I've been a gamer for more years than I haven't (my first lan party was in 1997); I've watched gaming change over the years . I've seen it grow from a somewhat obscure hobby to the monster it has become. When I first starting attending lan parties, it was a novelty to run into someone else in the world who shared my hobby. Now you'd be hard pressed to find someone in their 20's or later that doesn't enjoy gaming.
Interestingly the traditional social demographics for gamers are expanding. Women are beginning to play; there used to be very few female gamers (though I can testify that I have gamed with some highly skilled women players). The age range of gamers is expanding too - no doubt spurred on by the fact that most of us who gamed in our teens and 20's are still at it in our 30's and beyond.
On the surface these changes seems like a great thing; for the most part they are. There are strange consequences to gaming in general, however. Long ago, if you got a group together to play, the games themselves were almost a second thought - anyone would at least try most anything. Now, with countless gamers, countless titles, and a broadband connection in every home, the new challenge is getting your friends interested in the same games you are! Oh, it's easy to find gamers. "Ah yeah, I play shooters but I don't play that" or "that's too old" or "I played that for a good 3 weeks and I am done with it." What a fickle crowd we've become.
To be fair, with the vast number of game title coming out all the time, few of us can afford to buy every hot new game as soon as it's out. PC gamers will forever have hardware upgrades in the que. But in an age when you can't get folks to try or even look at [i]free demos[i] - as I say, gaming today is a very different environment.
Among diehard video-game enthusiasts, the rise of casual games has caused resentment in some quarters. On CNN Tech, any passing mention of FarmVille brings waves of fury in the comments section.
I am not so bothered by casual gaming. We all have something along these lines we like to play, even if our focus is on traditional games such as FPS or RTS. I consider Tetris to be a "casual" game and it's one I've loved for ages (since I played it on NES). Now I don't see the appeal of, for example, Facebook games - but I generally try to maintain the attitude, "what ever floats your boat." I imagine the animosity some gamers might feel stems from the fact that our group, for years, was chastised as "nerds" for spending hours playing games by folks who now log dozens of hours on FarmVille. But in the end, does this really diminish the enjoyment we get from our own games? Probably not.