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Call for radical rethink of games

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Gaming

Doug Lowenstein, president of the US trade body, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), said games needed to widen their appeal.

He was speaking at the start of the world's largest video games show, the E3 expo in Los Angeles.

The video games industry is big business. US players spent more than $7bn (£3.8bn) on games last year.

According to ESA, 75% of American heads of households play computer and video games, with the average age of a player being 30.

He berated game makers for failing to come up with products with truly mass market appeal, compared to film and TV producers.

A walk around the show floor at E3 illustrates the issue. There is a preponderance of action or fighting games which are aimed squarely at men in their 20s and early 30s.

There are also the obligatory "booth babes", as companies jostle for the attention of attendees.

"Our own industry, mainly through our marketing practices, reinforces the stereotype that most gamers are men," said Mr Lowenstein.

It is clear that women do like to play games. ESA figures show that a third of console players are women.

But many of these women are casual gamers, who play far fewer games, far more infrequently, than their male counterparts.

For this to happen, game producers need to think radically about the sorts of games they make, said the ESA president.

As part of this, games had to become easier to play, as often people are intimidated by the technology or the complexity of a title.

"If video games aspire to movie-like status, then games need to become topics of conversation at dinner parties and happy hours.

"And they won't ever achieve that if they are mainly the province of an elite few who speak their own language, congregate in chat rooms and LAN centres, and have an endless amount of time on their hands," he said.

One of the obstacles in the way of games becoming mainstream is the perception that they are aggressive and violent.

Games rated "mature" made up just 16% of all the games sold last year. The majority, 53%, were suitable for all ages, and 30% were for teens.

Mr Lowenstein said the games industry needed to take concerns about violence in games seriously. And he challenged game makers to stop relying on creating ever more violent titles in the pursuit of sales.

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