Mon, Nov 21, 2005 - Page 11 News List

Computer games gaining popularity


Two technicians stand among dozens of computers for the World Cyber Games competition in Singapore in this file photo dated Nov. 16.


Billed as the world's biggest video gaming festival, the World Cyber Games being held here is a testimony to a multi-billion dollar industry that analysts say now rivals music and movies in the popularity stakes.

This year's games festival is the largest ever with more than 700 competitors from 67 countries playing at the Suntec Convention Centre for prizemoney of US$435,000 over four days.

The cyber athletes are squaring off over eight of the most popular video games that include FIFA Soccer 2005 and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, with the finalists proceeding to the penultimate match yesterday.

Contrary to stereotypical images of anoraked geeks hunched over computers, the games have drawn people from all walks of life. While many of those playing and watching are in the their teens and 20s, other generations are also represented.

The oldest grand finalist is 39, a lieutenant-colonel from Hungary, while the youngest competitor is only three -- Iranian Armin Golnam, whom his father insists is "just a normal boy."

To many, video games conjure up mindless hours of battling animated baddies on a computer screen, but for others, like Austrian Verena Vlajo, it is far more satisfying than listening to music or watching television.

"It's fun, you can play with friends and it is not as passive as watching TV or listening to music ... you get to do things," Vlajo, the first ever female participant at the World Cyber Games, which is being held in Singapore, said.

"I was four years old when I started gaming. My father had a [gaming] console at home and I started gaming ... I had every Nintendo, Sega and Playstation," she said.

Video games have radically altered the entertainment landscape since their introduction to the world in 1971, transforming the likes of Nintendo and Sega into household names globally.

Even Microsoft, better known for its Windows software program, made clear it wanted a share of the pie when it launched the Xbox console in 2001.

"These days, video gaming is a communication tool for the young generation," said Hank Jeong, the brainchild behind the World Cyber Games, which was launched in 2001.

Recounting his own personal experience, the South Korean marketing whiz said video games helped bridge the distance between him and his son who is based in New Zealand.

"For me personally, I play with my son even though my son is living in New Zealand and I am living in Seoul," Jeong said.

"Sometimes we play with each other in cyberspace so it is a great help to demolish the generation gap," he said.

Next year's games will be held for the first time in Europe after Monza, the Italian city famous for its Formula One racing circuit, outbid Sydney, Mexico's resort town of Cancun and Shanghai for the right to play host.

Up to 800 gamers are expected in Monza next year, reflecting the massive drawing power of the event. The growing interest comes as no surprise to industry watchers.

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) study predicted the video game industry will grow at an annual compound rate of 16.5 percent, generating revenues worth US$25.4 billion last year, and up to US$54.6 billion by 2009.

Fuelling the phenomenal growth is the Asia-Pacific region, the world's biggest market which is tipped to increase from US$10.1 billion last year to at least US$23.1 billion in four years' time.

This story has been viewed 4258 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top