‘Just one more game’

Published 11:36 pm Friday, June 26, 2009

There was a time, not all that long ago, when the sight of a teenager sitting in front of a television with his concentration welded to the images flashing by on the screen and his hands clutched around a video game controller seemed to be further proof of the decline of Western civilization. For years now, Americans have heard about the evils of video games and the damage that even the most innocuous of them could do to the average teen’s ambition and drive.

That was then. Now, though, and into the foreseeable future, video games are where the action is, and not just the onscreen action. Even during the midst of the recession last Christmas, sales of video games, consoles and accessories grew by 9 percent, according to the market research firm, NPD Group. That monthly gain was somewhat off the incredible 19-percent increase in the video game sector for all of 2008.

And in recent years, gaming technology has begun to come out of the living room and find its way into the boardroom — or at least into the simulation labs of some of the nation’s top defense contractors, who use it to increase the level of training for the nation’s warriors before they ever have a chance to step into the line of fire overseas.

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Given the evolutionary improvement in the reputation — and profitability — of the gaming industry, it’s hardly surprising that schools like Tidewater Community College are now partnering with regional educational organizations to convert teens who like to play video games and are good at math and science from players to designers.

In an industry growing as fast as the gaming one, there’s plenty of money to be made by eager young recruits who are able to learn the ins and outs of computer programming, and getting them interested during summer camps like the ones this year at TCC is a smart way to harness both their creative energies and their desire to have fun playing video games.

So the next time you pass your young son reclining on the sofa with a game controller in his hands and that familiar in-the-zone look in his eyes, think twice about reprimanding him. Maybe it’s just research he’s doing, after all.