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Trends to watch from Germany's Gamescom

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COLOGNE (GERMANY)  -  Hundreds of thousands of video gamers from across Europe and beyond are gathering in western Germany city Cologne this week for one of the industry's biggest conventions, Gamescom.

Here are five of the gaming trends you might spot in the crowded halls.

- Merkel hits start -

On the campaign trail ahead of next month's general election, German Chancellor Angela Merkel officially opened Gamescom on Tuesday in her first-ever appearance at the fair -- a sign of how mainstream gaming has become.

"Everyday life without computer and video games has long since become unthinkable," Merkel told attendees, praising the industry's role in culture, innovation and the economy.

"The fact that Angela Merkel and many other politicians are honouring and recognising games is a very important step for the industry," Martin Puppe of German games industry association BIU told AFP.

- Headhunters get in on the game -

Gamescom isn't only about checking out the latest first-person shooters or strategy games -- there are also big-name employers scouting for young talent.

Among the recruiters exhibiting in Cologne this week are carmaker Ford, supermarket chain Aldi and the German armed forces.

"We're looking for authentic, creative applicants," said Kathrin Schnurr, a spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler, adding the car industry is "in upheaval" thanks to the influence of new technology.

"We're here to show especially younger groups that we are definitely an employer you can apply to," said Dennis, a recruiter for Germany's BfV domestic intelligence agency who asked that his family name not be used.

- Not just for kids -

According to a BIU survey, the average age among gamers in Germany has risen to 35.5 years, from 31 in 2011.

And the older cohort is increasingly visible among the crowds at the fair, whether accompanying their children around the booths or joining in with the younger generations' "cosplay" -- dressing up as favourite characters to entertain other visitors.

Older gamers "don't need the very best technology, but rather a way of getting into games as quickly as possible. The industry is doing that with smartphones, tablets, with mobile games that make it very easy," said BIU spokesman Puppe.

- Slow and serious -

A world away from the usual fighting or racing action, the Gamescom Indie Arena caters to players looking for more serious, reflective games.

"I want people to feel better, to have achieved something, to have addressed questions that are relevant for them," said Rene Buehling, a German programmer whose point-and-click adventure game A Room Beyond is based on a nurse's account of the most common regrets among dying patients.

Another offering from French studio Accidental Queens, Another Lost Phone, presents players with the smartphone of a missing woman and asks them to work out what happened to her using clues from her messages.

"You start reading the messages and then you see something strange is going on and you want to know more," said trainee Viviane Bicaba -- although she declined to spoil exactly what mystery players would uncover.

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Muslim Global: Trends to watch from Germany's Gamescom
Trends to watch from Germany's Gamescom
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