Addicting Games

Addicting Games for All

It does not take a whole lot to get kids fighting these days. Usually it is through a cell phone text message or one on the computer from a friend to playing an addicting game, usually online.

Computer gaming isn't what it used to be. Not long ago, the typical players were scruffy teenage boys shooting at TV screens in their basements. But with the online gaming explosion of recent years, gamers have become a more sophisticated lot, and are now more representative of the general population. More women are participating, and older people as well, many of them professionals. According to Nielsen//NetRatings, 41 percent of people who frequent online game sites like GameSpot, Candystand and Pogo are women, and 43 percent are ages 25 to 49. Meanwhile, Reston, Va.-based com-ScoreNetworks, a firm that measures online game use, confirms players are beginning to resemble the general population. O

Such statistics haven't been lost on marketers, either. As gaming goes mass market, the biggest opportunity may lie in advergaming - the interactive advertisements that merge online games with product placement - through which businesses can target specific demographics. Sponsors of advergaming sites like Nabisco's Candystand are betting they can build brand loyalty among players, and eventually reap the rewards when gamers become online buyers. "Experience is an enormous predictor of what people do online," says Harrison Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project. "Newcomers do all the fun stuff like e-mail games and Instant Messaging, but eventually, in two or three years, they make a purchase." The potential of advergaming to drive sales has kept the marketing dollars flowing from the likes of auto giants Ford and General Motors, among the first companies to successfully incorporate such tactics into their branding campaigns.

Players have a choice of two main categories of games these days - stored and online. Stored games come packaged for play on consoles such as Sony's PlayStation 2 and soon 3, Microsoft's Xbox and X Box 360, and Nintendo's Gamecube and soon Wii, and must be purchased at a store. These typically offer "fast-twitch" games with high-speed action and cutting-edge graphics to keep the adrenaline pumping, and tend to appeal to an audience of young, die-hard males. Most of these games can be linked over the Internet using modems or network connections, allowing gamers to play together and share information on their moves while leaving all the number crunching to the console. Even the U.S. Army has begun using such games to help train its troops. The online, or Internet-based games, on the other hand, require no special equipment but tend to be far slower. These "slow-twitch" games must allow for lag times because graphics and other details are being sent over the Internet, and the speed of modem connections varies. Included in this category are board, card and adventure games designed to be played simultaneously.

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