After Dark: Sony's games theory pays off

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Computer games used to be the preserve of teenage nerds, but now clubbers have made the PlayStation the epitome of cool

Since clubbing moved out of fields and warehouses and went legitimate, promoters have gone to great lengths to provide revellers with various kinds of chill-out zones. What do they want in them? The overwhelming majority of clubbers (especially the male variety) select some form of computer game for recreation.

Indeed, technology has always played a prominent role in clubland, with new electronic instruments and samplers creating fresh music for a generation at home in the computer age. And games like Space Invaders and PacMan are enjoying a new lease of life.

Since the demise of the 16-bit games console (remember how cool Sonic the Hedgehog was eight years ago?), Sony's PlayStation has been the market leader in the UK. The technology used has proved a great leap forward for gamers with superior hardware (better colours and graphics) combined with superb software. And then its influence started to spread with PlayStations appearing in nightclubs, not just one in the office, but in groups of 10.

It was hard to notice them at first because the crowds around them were always so big. For some reason PlayStations never seemed to appear in sad clubs like Equinox. Rather, they stood proudly in leading clubs such as London's Ministry of Sound, Liverpool's Cream, Manchester's Hacienda, The Pleasure Rooms in Leeds and The Tunnel in Glasgow. The list reads like a Who's Who of clubland.

Top venues have traditionally been quick to use technology. Many employ Video Jockeys (VJs) to control the visual aesthetics on the dancefloors, in addition to traditional psychedelic imagery. Clubbers can even dance with computerised sprites on giant screens. Yet the arrival of PlayStations was nothing short of an invasion. By this summer, there were consoles in practically every major venue in the UK.

And the success of the new technology also blew away traditional notions of a male-female divide. Almost as many girls played as guys - one couple at Complex even settled an argument by playing best-out-of-three on the "beat 'em up" game, Soulblade.

Games have not yet brought UK dancefloors to a halt, but they have nevertheless provided an innovative distraction when you need to chill.

With regard to clubland, Sony correctly deduced that thousands of people, who played 16-bit machines a decade ago, still like computer games.

The major difference these days is that most punters are mature enough to shave, have more disposable income and are old enough and cool enough to get into clubs.

PlayStation have also increased their profile through sponsorship of athletic events, such as the British Snowboarding Championships and the Uefa Champions' League. Top festivals like Tribal '97 and Board X '97 always have PlayStation areas.

Sony's efforts to take over the world have even extended to the clothes market. Vests, kagools, beanies, wallets and ruck-sacks - from this week onwards PlayStation will be offering cool urban fashions for life in the metropolis.

PlayStation's current advertising blurb is "Do not underestimate the power of PlayStation".

You've been warned.

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