Gaming and dedicated games rooms
Computer gaming has become a social activity for families and over 18s. Custom installers are responding by including gaming in home entertainment systems.
Computer games are moving out of the kid’s bedroom and into the lounge room, as they begin to cater to the new generation of gamers – families, teenagers and over 18s who use games as a social activity.
Times have changed since the old days of Pac-Man and Space Invaders arcade games. Early games console companies like Atari brought Pong and Space Invaders into the home, but the gaming industry took its biggest leap forward in 1985 with the birth of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Graphically, home video games quickly came to surpass arcade games through the introduction of 3D environments originally seen in Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers 64.
But even the cartridge-based consoles were quick to be superseded by the data disc revolution. Graphics, music and playability all improved dramatically with the introduction of the first Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn in 1994, and the fight for the ultimate gaming system continues with the next generation releases of the Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and Sony’s PlayStation 3 (PS3).
While we tend to think of teenage boys when talking about computer games, the 2007 Interactive Australia survey revealed that with an average age of 28, the Australian gamer isn’t a kid anymore.
The research was conducted by Bond University for computer gaming industry body, the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA). The survey polled 1,606 households and 3,386 individuals between the ages of five and 84.
IEAA chief executive Chris Hanlon says as gaming technology improves it is becoming more family friendly, and that the demographic of users is changing with it.
“The gaming industry is the fastest growing entertainment industry, surpassing music and film.
“The results of the survey have shown that more women and families are playing these games, and game developers are targeting these mass markets, rather than continuing with the old first-person shooter style games.
“55% of game console users are over the age of 18, and 19% were aged 36 or above. Further, it is estimated that by the year 2014 the average age of gamers will be 42.”
“For the first time last year, we asked how many seniors regularly played games to find 8% of gamers surveyed were people over the age of 65.
“I think the reason for that is that familiarity of the systems is increasing due to email and the Internet.”
A large number of parents surveyed by the IEAA said they believe these games to hold a high educational value as it familiarises children with technology, and can also encourage reading skills.
As the population ages, the novelty of video games isn’t wearing off as it once may have; rather, the gamers of the past are becoming the gamers of the future, and as they enter the workforce, they are earning more disposable cash to spend on gaming.
The Australian gaming industry, which recorded turnover of $1 billion in 2006, is a profitable venture for the major games players, but recently it has also started to pay off for custom installers.
One local installer believes that as gamers get older, and enter the workforce, some are finding disposable cash to spend on recreation, and the installation of fully integrated games rooms.
“We make provisions for game consoles in most of the installations we complete because their specs aren’t any different from those of a home theatre system,” says Urban Intelligence director Lior Rauchberger.
“While we’re not yet receiving requests for dedicated games rooms, the new generation of consoles are finding their way into most installations due to their ability to act as media server extensions.
“Now that these consoles are more sophisticated and delivering high-definition video, most high-end TVs are built with the relevant inputs, and with the need for surround sound audio there has been an increase in the number of digital and optical audio connections built-in,” he says.
“When it comes to gaming, clients tend to know that they want these systems before we begin. Most of the time they come to us with the system and ask how it can be integrated.
“The beauty of these newer consoles is that they act like a repeater, so we have had people use the consoles purely in that capacity, without actually playing any games.”
The integration of game consoles into home theatre and games room environments is not a hard task, says Sony Computer Entertainment spokesperson Adrian Christie.
“A gaming room shouldn’t be any different from a home theatre room. Wireless controllers mean that you can be any distance from the location of the console, and as for tech set-up, the PS3, for example, offers the highest system outputs.
To get the most of the system you should have a high-definition 1080p display that accepts HDMI. Further, the console should have an optical audio input for Dolby 7.1 surround sound.
“The PS3 is a Blu-ray movie player that offers 7.1 surround sound, a Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD – a read-only optical audio disc in competition with DVD-Audio) player, and it comes with a 60GB HD for the storage of your digital files,” he says.
“There is a clear trend for the adoption of interactive entertainment over passive entertainment such as television. The gaming industry has been consistently expanding over the last few decades and, as consumers are given more and more control of game play via online options, you will see a large uptake in the adoption of user generated content.
“As consumers begin to have direct control of the shape of their entertainment we will see a further explosion in interactive entertainment choices.”