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Sales of electronic games totalled a staggering 25 billion euros last year. Even the grim international economic outlook doesn't seem to be stunting the growth of this industry, which has made its breakthrough during the past two decades. Gaming goes mainstream W ithin a short time, gaming has become a mainstream phenomenon with hundreds of millions of enthusiasts around the world. For instance, according to the Entertainment Software Association of America (ESA), 40 per cent of all players in the US are women and players' ages range from toddlers to senior citizens. More than two thirds of American households own some kind of gaming machine. The figures in Europe and Japan are similar. Gaming is not the easiest thing to define as there is such a tremendous variety of both games and gaming devices. There are educational games for kids, action and shooting games, karaoke, dance and music games, social simulators and adult-only games. Besides computers and familiar game consoles such as Xbox, Wii and PlayStation, games can be played on an iPod, smartphone or any of a variety of mobile game devices. No wonder then, that the gaming world may seem overwhelming and baffling to the uninitiated. CENTURIES-OLD TRADITION But why have electronic games only made their breakthrough now? "Gaming has always existed, from making up rhymes and puns to dice games," says Frans Mäyrä, who is a professor of digital culture and game studies at the University of Tampere. "However in the modern era, most people have been too busy working to play games, and they have basically been left to children." Mäyrä sees today's games as part of a centuries-old tradition rather than something completely new. The appeal of games, he says, APRIL 2009 BLUE WINGS 57 TEXT BY ALEKSI KUUTIO ILLUSTRATION BY PAULIINA MÄKELÄ / NAPA ILLUSTRATIONS

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