Gamespot's Kasavin agrees. "I think people like the idea of having control. They like the idea of being the hero," he said. "[Games] provide a vicarious thrill that is not totally vicarious because you're involved in what's going on."
And with the ESA projecting 54 percent of American households will buy games this year, closet enthusiasts soon may find they're no longer facing a social stigma.
"I think it's just a matter of time before it's a lot more reasonable to say 'What did you play this weekend?' as opposed to 'What did you see this weekend?' " said Kasavin. "I think it's already true for the younger generation."
Lowenstein says that as games become more varied, the audience will continue to grow.
"There are more and more choices because the audience for games is getting broader," he said. Most games are still lacking in character development, realism, emotional engagement, and such. But we're getting there."