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Video gamers keep playing, despite economy

Video gamers keep playing, despite economy



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Paul Nelson reportingIf the economy gets worse and you happen to be forced to give up either food or video games, which will you choose? Gamers say that's an easy question: They'll eat less.

Some people live to play. For example, a man I met at Gamerz Funk in Taylorsville, Matt, called in sick. You could guess why.

I asked him, "You took off work today, and one of the reasons was to come here and play?" He answered, "One of them, yeah. I haven't been here in weeks and I just want to come and play some ‘Counter Strike.'"

You would think he got his fill of video games from playing until 2:00 in the morning the night before, but, no.

Matt just spent over $100 on two video games and was planning to spend at least $60 more on "Grand Theft Auto IV," without batting an eye.

I asked, "Priced be darned, you're going to get it anyway?" Matt said, "Yeah, I only have a couple bills. I'm young. I'm in the Army. I've got to have something to entertain myself."

With all the stories about a softening economy, some people are thinking about what they can cut back on, so I posed this question to Matt: "If you had to cut back on one thing, would gaming be on that list at all?" He replied, "Probably not."

You may think guys like Matt need to get their priorities straight, putting video games above things like food and shopping, but Gamerz Funk owner Michael Winger says he sees it all the time.

"Sometime when there are rough times and they [customers] don't have as much money, I've seen them donate blood. I've seen them basically eat the Top Ramen diet or, as it's sometimes known, "the gamer's diet" -- which is a can of Mountain Dew and whatever is cheapest at the store," he said.

I asked, "They do that just to be able to afford to play video games?" He answered, "That's correct."

A report from MSNBC says retail sales dropped just over half a percent from January to February overall, but gaming hardware and software jumped 34 percent during that same time, and that gamers will cut back on many other things before they give up playing.

"Video games are a way for people to experience a different type of life. It's an escape from the mundane or the boring lifestyle that they're normally accustomed to," Winger said.

Winger says a $60 game will entertain for weeks, while spending $7 or $8 on a movie will entertain for a couple of hours.

E-mail: pnelson@ksl.com

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