A few years ago the gaming industry was in the doldrums. I recall articles predicting that computer gaming was on its last legs. New games looked like tired rehashes of old games. Gaming magazines were shrinking.

The turnaround is complete. The sales numbers are huge. Halo 2, a hotly anticipated game for XBox, had sales of $125 million in its first 24 hours on the market – and analysts see so many other big releases on the horizon that they weren’t sure Halo 2 would set the record for 24-hour sales this year. For the past two years, the gaming industry has generated more sales dollars than the movie industry – and it’s catching up to the music industry.

Even better for gamers – the new releases are worth the money. They’re creative and satisfying and fresh, even though many of the best-sellers are sequels. Halo 2 has been called “one of the very best action games available.”

There’s been huge releases on every platform. Playstation just got Grand Theft Auto – San Andreas, an absolutely huge world offering riveting game play and decidedly kid-inappropriate opportunities for mayhem. Reviewers are ecstatic.

And PC gaming is undergoing a rebirth. Consumers are beginning to understand that not all computers are suitable for gaming; the new games make special demands for video cards, memory, and processor power. There’s less resentment about that than a few years ago but there will still be people taken by surprise on Xmas day when they learn that their new games won’t run on the Dell Dimension 2400 in the den.

Sims fans are reasonably happy with The Sims 2, a modest improvement in the wildly profitable Sims franchise that is currently projected to sell 15 quintillion copies.

And action gamers are in heaven. Doom 3 lived up to all the hype: completely immersive, with extraordinary graphics and relentlessly dedicated to scaring the bejeesus out of you.

Two weeks ago, Half Life 2 followed it onto the market and has taken gamers by storm. PC Gamer Magazine gave it the highest rating ever awarded to a game and called it one of the best games ever released on any platform. Nobody disagrees. Random quote from the BBC: “The bar has been raised, and so far out of sight that you have to sympathise with any game that tries to do anything remotely similar in the near future.”

Keep an eye on the hardware requirements. There will be lots of people learning about NVidia and ATI video cards and buying new computers to play these games. But the high quality of the games makes it a very appealing way to waste time. Happy gaming!

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