According to new statistics released by the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association and the Interactive Software Federation of Europe, almost a third (32 per cent) of the UK population now classifies themselves as gamers.

The rise of online and mobile gaming - FarmVille and Apps - has opened up the one time niche hobby to new audiences, making it one of the most popular modern leisure activities in the UK.

According to the ESLPA reports, this new breed of gamer seeks "more online formats, both single and multiplayer experiences and are embracing games on both traditional gaming sites, social networking and other non-gaming web pages".

Younger audiences in particular are being drawn into this new gaming world, with 74 per cent of 16-19 year olds defining themselves as gamers and 60 per cent of 20-24 year olds.

It's now also the case that gaming is a shared activity by both men and women: in 2010, 34 per cent of men in the UK define themselves as gamers with female gamers not far behind at 31 per cent. Today's gamer is also less inclined to opt for a traditional shooting game, with a whopping 65 per cent of gamers playing puzzle games online, with only 18 per cent enjoying a more conventional online multiplayer game.

"In the last few years the development of motion sensor technology saw gaming become more accessible to new audiences who didn't previously connect with the industry," said Mike Rawlinson, Director-General of ELSPA. "With the growth of gaming platforms such as social networking sites and the iPhone, we are witnessing once again the growth of gaming into new areas of society, truly showing that the UK is a nation of gamers."

Contrary to widespread belief, it's actually the PC which provides most of us with out gaming fix, accounting for 33 per cent of gamers. The Wii and Xbox 360 can only drum up a combined 36 per cent.

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