• About 3 percent of gamers spend an average of 45 hours per week playing video games.
• These gamers have purchased about 24 game titles in the past three months.
• Video games can range from computer games and online games to those played on console systems.
• Console gamers spend an average of 8.2 hours playing video games per week.
Source: The NPD Group
Nick Larson sits in a dimly lit room, transfixed.
Flickering lights from the TV screen light his face. The image on the screen guides his fingers, which race and flutter across rectangle-shaped buttons on the black plastic object in his hand.
Larson, 18, a Craig resident, spends about six hours a day, or 30 hours a week, playing video games like "Guitar Hero 3."
The game requires players to follow along with various songs, playing notes displayed on the screen. Yet instead of strings, the guitar-shaped console Larson uses is equipped with buttons.
Other people take an interest in sports, he said.
"That's their thing," Larson said.
But give him a video game and he comes into his own.
Larson began playing video games at age 5. His first game was "Super Mario Brothers 3," which he played on a Nintendo Entertainment System.
These days, he plays using a silver Xbox 360.
The time he spends playing video games pales in comparison to more than 5 million avid video game players who devote an average of 45 hours a week to the pastime, according to a news release from The NPD Group, a market research company.
Each of these 5 million game enthusiasts have purchased about 24 titles in the past three months, The NPD Group reported.
Records from Movie Gallery in Craig, which rents video games and movies, indicate local youths have picked up on the gaming trend. The store rents at least 315 video games per month on average, Movie Gallery Manager Lynnd Hering said.
That number remains fairly steady through both summer and winter months.
"Craig is full of gamers," Hering said. "Our game sales and rentals are usually fairly steady."
However, video game rentals usually swell during the holiday season.
The reason: "A lot of our active gamers are younger," she said. "When school's out, they come in, and they'll rent three and four (games) at a time."
Larson doesn't have a lot of video games, he said. Instead, he splits his time between "Guitar Hero" and "Halo." However, the former remains his favorite.
"I picked it up about a year and a half ago, and I just couldn't put it down," he said.
He's not shy about broadcasting his skills.
"Nobody here in Craig can beat me," he said. "That's why I play online."
He's got a record to back up his claims. He's collected 22 gold stars playing the game, each one representing a song he's played with no mistakes.
Larson doesn't buy the argument that video games require less discipline and concentration than real-life activities.
"A lot of people say, 'Who cares? It's just a video game,'" he said. "But I'd like to see them do it."
Larson's hours of practice pay off eventually, giving him a sense of satisfaction.
"I love being able to say I beat the game," he said.
As he races through The song, "Operation Ground and Pound" by DragonForce, his wife, Cheryl; his mother, Cheryl; his sister, Dulsie; and his friend, Colton Doolin, watch.
Larson and his wife occasionally play Guitar Hero together, with one playing bass and the other taking lead guitar. Cheryl sometimes devotes weeks to perfecting one part of a song she's trying to master.
Other times, though, Cheryl prefers to watch her husband take a turn at the game.
"I like to watch him more because he's better," she said.
From Larson's mother's prospective, video games could become a detriment to Larson if he played them too much.
"I think they could be (overly-engrossing) if you didn't have other things going on in your life," she said.
Still, she believes the danger isn't specific to video games.
"(Video games are) no more engrossing than football could become or any other activity you do," she said. "You can do too much of everything."