college, work, retirement. Along with that you had hobbies like cars, bowling, or gardening. The former was more or a less of a chore, the latter the fun stuff you did in your free time, usually together with local friends from the same neighborhood. This was basically the same as a thousand years ago. For a few lucky people the two areas overlapped and they could do the stuff that they liked as their main job.
Now, in the last 10 years of the 20th century, as well as in the first few years of the 21st, this has been changing rather dramatically. The reason is the rapid technical progress, both in the wide area network and computing power areas. Contemporary hardware can animate very detailed and realistic graphics fluently, and transfer data on the movements and actions of hundreds of objects and characters around the world in milliseconds (although, unfortunately, the speed of light still remains a limiting factor). This has led to an explosion in the availability and quality of online games, with the newest generation like Counter-Strike and World of Warcraft becoming a phenomenon no longer limited to any particular social class, but rather an all-encompassing cultural element in the industrial countries.
Increasingly, parents find that their chi