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Kurt Hasel is about as serious as they come. Sitting behind a huge see-through gaming console, talking on the microphone attached to his head as he frags a giant monster in the latest "Lord Of The Rings" game, Kurt looks every bit the hard core gamer - except that he's a grown man, approaching middle age, domesticity, and a promotion at his job.
But don't think Kurt's out of his element, an aging Gen-Xer desperately hanging on to the last vestiges of cool. Kurt's a gamer who's grown up. And the industry is growing along with him, changing not only how it looks and plays, but how it's used by those who play.
The video game industry has come a long way since the early Pong, Commodore, and Atari days. As it's grown, the early adapters have grown along with it. If you ask me, the reason gaming was known as the domain of young boys, is that it was a young industry .. aimed at young boys. As the industry became a teenager itself, it was dominated by teenagers. Now, the industry is grown up, and statistics show that grown ups (including women) are playing in record numbers. This is largely thanks to new systems (like the Nintendo Wii) aimed at adults and families, along with new titles (Brain Age, Wii Fit, etc) also in their wheelhouse.
It's also because gaming is the new battleground for networking. Lots of people need jobs these days, and you may not know it, but they're making contacts over the gaming network. Who knew that playing a game like "Left For Dead" could bring you your next job? But there's Kurt, taking the least formal meeting in history, while fragging away at his opponent. All good news for companies like HP, which owns high-powered gamer VooDoo, and component makers like Nvidia and Bigfoot Networks. The more this catches on, the more machines will come with cool high-end gear inside. Says Bigfoot CEO Michael Howse, "this is really where the social networking element of gaming comes in. It's so easy to find people that enjoy doing what you do. You can find game players anytime, and play immediately."
It's now so easy to network this way, we might have a new ethical dilemma on our hands. Much like the dilemma of how well to do on the golf course when you play your boss, will you now worry that the monster you're about to kill could be the HR director you want to impress?
Scott wants your gaming stories. Hit him on Twitter @scottbudman