Computer games convention draws 150,000 to Leipzig
By Ernest Gill Aug 23, 2006, 15:41 GMT
Hamburg - Europe's largest computer games convention and trade fair opens Thursday in Leipzig, with organizers predicting 150,000 gamers will converge on the eastern German city better known for its time-honoured book fair during the communist era.
The irony could not be more fitting since the Games Convention coincides with a rekindled debate in Germany over the alleged deleterious effects of gaming on a cyber-generation of young Germans.
The fair, which runs through Sunday, also coincides with new figures showing that Germans spent a record 1.3 billion euros (1.5 billion dollars) on computer games last year.
And because the world's largest gaming convention, the E3 in Los Angeles, is being down-sized, organizers of the Leipzig event say they may have a chance to joy-stick their way to the very top next year.
In Leipzig, 360 exhibitors will be hawking their cyber-wares, up 30 per cent from last year.
'In just five short years we have gone from being the new kid on the block to being very nearly the biggest kid on the block,' says Leipzig convention centre head Josef Rahmen.
'We are already the largest gaming convention in Europe and I am confident that we have a crack at the top spot,' he predicts.
Riding the crest of success, the Leipzig fair is launching a spinoff convention in Singapore in September 2007, which will be dubbed the Computer Games Singapore show.
But the gaming boom has rekindled the smouldering books vs. computers debate in Germany, with one expert even going so far as to say that computer games could create a resurgence of German militarism.
'Watching TV is bad enough. But kids who watch television are only consuming violence. With computer games they are actively being trained in violence,' warns Manfred Spitzer, a neurologist at Ulm University.
'The overwhelming majority of computer and video games are concerned with conditioning young minds to violence,' he says.
'Young minds are being trained to kill and to maim and to overcome societal strictures against cruelty and violence,' Spitzer argues.
His stern warning comes in response to new studies which claim that, far from dumbing-down gamers, computer games actually enhance the intellectual and social interaction skills of their players.
'Recent studies definitely show that young people who play computer games display higher social skills,' says Matthias Horx, a leading German trend research expert.
'Contrary to popular opinion, it's the kids who sit in a dark room with their noses in a book who are less mentally agile and are less physically coordinated and are more awkward in social interaction with other kids,' he claims.
'Games appear to hone mental agility as well as develop coordination centres in the brain. They also encourage young people to become more competitive and adventurous. And above all, they help young people to plan ahead and anticipate unexpected twists and turns ahead in the road of life,' Horx believes.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur