Jonathan Rachal, a senior at Hephzibah High School, has been playing video games since he was 5. He's seen the Nintendo give way to the Super Nintendo, the rise of the PlayStation and the arrival of the Xbox.
"It's something to do to get away from your problems," he said. "You get so into the game you don't remember what's going on in your social life."
And the escape isn't always into a violent fantasy world.
"Some play the fighting games for competition," he said, and some play games simply for amusement.
A national survey by the Entertainment Software Association showed that 87 percent of people who play video games do so for fun, while about 72 percent do it for the challenges of the game.
For Brandon Barnett, 12, his PlayStation 2 system is used best for recreation.
"I play a lot," the Sego Middle School student said. "It's just entertainment." He said he fills his after-school hours with the challenges of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Midnight Club 2.
"I like the action ones" he said during a recent trip to Augusta Mall, where he and fellow players packed the arcade and perused the electronics and game shops for the latest additions to their video-game libraries.
Action games ranked first in video-game purchases, said Ashley Vandarsdall, with the Entertainment Software Association. Sports games and racing games round out the top three, she said.
"I play all kinds of games," said Roger Shannon, 16, a student at Cross Creek High School.
All this fun isn't cheap. Jonathan, who'll soon be working at a video-game store stocking the games others buy, estimates that he spends about $200 a year to support his video-game habit.
Not an unrealistic figure, when games cost upward of $15 for older systems and $50 for newer systems such as Microsoft's Xbox, Sony's PlayStation 2 or Nintendo's Gamecube.
"Most teens spend more on clothes," Jonathan said. "And they only buy about two or three games a year."
Roger said he buys new games only every now and again since he concentrates on beating the games he already has before he gets more.
"It takes a long time," he said, and beating the game is not really his aim. "It's just fun to play."
That fun is not confined to the hand-held controllers on the most popular systems. Game makers are including feet, much to the delight of some players.
"The game is all physical," Riverside Middle School student John Ham said about Dance Dance Revolution, a video game that requires a player to execute dance steps from computer-generated cues.
"It takes a lot of practice, more than just moving the joystick around," John said.
DDR also contradicts the notion that video games keep players inactive.
"It makes you sweat a lot," he said. "The game is actually physical, instead of moving your hands and tapping little buttons."
"It's exercise," said Jonathan, who travels to the arcade about twice a week to try his hand at the game.
Yet all the activity doesn't make playing DDR any less fun.
"It's pretty addicting," John added. "You get hooked" trying to keep up with the game's instructions.
What's more, John said, the game provides an avenue for new friendships.
"You get to meet a lot of people," he said. "Make a lot of friends. Plus, it's probably better than staying at home and watching TV."
Best-selling video games of the last quarter:
1. NCAA Football 2004 - PlayStation 2
2. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - Xbox
3. NCAA Football 2004 - Xbox
4. Dragonball Z - Gameboy Advance
5. Donkey Kong Country - Gameboy Advance
6. Pokemon Ruby - Gameboy Advance
7. Grand Theft Auto 3 - PlayStation 2
8. Pokemon Sapphire - Gameboy Advance
9. Yu-Gi-Oh Worldwide - Gameboy Advance
10. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City - PlayStation 2
Source: NPD FunWorld
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org