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Confessions of a videogame junkie

  • 15 December 2008

So this is Christmas. Another year has passed and again Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft are doing battle for our precious dollars in the mighty entertainment behemoth that is the videogame industry. You too can strap on a plastic guitar to be a rock star in Guitar Hero, become an interplanetary hero blasting away an alien horde in Halo 3, or ply your trade as an up-and-coming thug in Grand Theft Auto 4.

Now more than ever, as the realities of our changing economy hit home, the digital lives we create in videogames seem far more appealing.

Last week, I almost caved in. I found myself wriggling through a Christmas rush at a local shopping centre, rationalising the potential purchase of a new Playstation 3.

Yes, I admit: I was once a videogame addict. In the 1980s I spent untold hours in front of the television playing Last Ninja 2 on my Commodore 64. Ten years later I upgraded to a PC, and to fighting the beasties of Duke Nukem 3D and Diablo as I chugged down too many coffees, Mars bars and packets of salt and vinegar chips.

Later, I progressed to a console and played Wipeout and Tekken 3 endlessly on the first evolution of the Playstation. Even now, running five nights a week, I blame my portly body on my former addiction to these digital gaming pleasures.

A new Playstation 3 costs almost $700. This is a considerable chunk of cash. If you factor in other expenses like games (around $100 a pop), extra controllers, hard disks, broadband access and online gaming fees, then time spent hacking and slashing a few digital cronies can prove very costly indeed.

It makes you wonder how much it's really worth to play virtual tennis when you can walk to the local park to kick around a footy for free.

Such pricy gaming technology tends to be a very exclusive form of entertainment. Only those with enough cash can afford to experience the eye-popping visual candy of a next generation gaming machine.

The consumerist nature of videogames requires a reality check. Cheaper forms of multimedia technology, for example, can be used in positive and interactive ways that don't cost the earth. They also have the potential to enrich our lives far beyond the immediate thrills of gaming for entertainment.

As researchers at the Inspire Foundation and ORYGEN Youth Health have found, the internet, access to broadband and the use of mobile