Stan Thomas playing on his ipad Photo: Rodger Cummins
When he is not working on his science fiction novel, watching movies or reading on his iPad, Stan Thomas can usually be found with a PlayStation 3 controller in his hand.
The 64-year-old retiree from Armadale, Victoria, started playing video games 18 months ago after watching Good Game on ABC2. Now, he happily admits to being hooked.
''There have been times when I've been up until three o'clock in the morning playing games because I get lost in the 'just one more mission' mentality,'' he says, adding that his gaming sessions typically span six or seven hours.
"The big appeal in gaming is that it's interactive" ... Stan Thomas. Photo: Rodger Cummins
''For me, the big appeal in gaming is that it's interactive. The kind of games I like have a good storyline and an imaginary world where I can wander around, do things and get lost in it. I guess it's an escape in a sense,'' Thomas says. ''Watching movies and TV shows is passive entertainment; with games, I can actually take part and do things.''
He doesn't fit the stereotype of a typical ''gamer'': a male in his mid-to-late 20s sitting in a dark room, playing gory shoot-'em-ups for hours at a stretch while the rest of his life falls by the wayside.
The reality is that video-gaming is far more mainstream and ''grown up'' than many people realise. The new Digital Australia 2012 report, released by the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association, pegs the average Australian gamer as 32 years old, with an almost even split between male and female gamers - the latter making up 47 per cent of the market.
A few years ago the average gamer was a 28-year-old male.
The report, compiled from a study of 1252 randomly selected Australian households, also found older gamers were in on the action, with nearly half of respondents aged 51 and over saying they played video games.
''Gaming is now a legitimate form of entertainment, and it's not just for kids,'' says Natasha Brack of Activision, one of the world's largest game publishers.
''Over the last five years, gaming as an entertainment medium has started to be taken seriously, and it's now in the same dizzying heights as film and TV, publishing and music.''
Playing for keeps
For most kids, playing video games is simply a meaningless way to blow off steam. Kyson Faulkner-Dimond, 12, thinks of gaming as a lifelong pursuit.
Kyson spends most of his time and pocket money on gaming, although he's conscientious about fitting his schoolwork and sporting activities around it. He has his own gaming-themed YouTube channel, where he delivers a running commentary on the latest games he has played, and he hopes to turn gaming into a full-time career, either as a professional gamer or a game designer.
''Gaming is pretty much like having another life inside the game - I really like that,'' he says.
''Lots of people say I have no life, but then I say, 'Well, I've chosen to have many lives'.''
Kieran Cummings, 32, is closer to the gamer stereotype. He plays video games for several hours a day, and manages to fit about 20 hours' worth of gaming in at the weekends. ''I remember when I was in my early 20s, both my mum and my dad used to say, 'When are you going to stop playing games and do something?'''
Far from being a waste of time, Kieran says that many of the skills he's learned in gaming over the years have benefited his working life, and vice versa.
''One of the most beneficial things about gaming is being able to manage people and be managed by people - this is an important part of gaming,'' he says.
''In massively multiplayer online games, being able to lead people through a 25-man raid and co-ordinate all of them to take down a boss is a really neat achievement.
''There are also a lot of thought processes that go into gaming. You're using both logic and imagination. You're joining the dots. You also need to think on your feet and come to decisions fairly rapidly.''
Games they're playing
Stan Thomas Batman: Arkham City (M), Heavy Rain (MA15+)
Kieran Cummings World of Tanks (US: Teen), NBA 2K12 (G)
Kyson Faulkner-Dimond Diablo 3 (MA15+), Battlefield 3 (MA15+)