Who is fuelling the rise in gaming?
Over the years, the idea that the ‘typical gamer’ is a teenage boy, and that aside from that, not many other people video games. This image may have persisted over the years due to a commonly shared belief that the way games are advertised, to show guns, violence and macho men are aimed towards that kind of audience who may get a kick out of things like large weapons, violent explosions and extremely fast car races. However, even though some of the big AAA games might be marketed in this manner, this actually paints an incorrect image of how audience for video games, and what an ‘average gamer’ may look like. The truth is not all games get an equal spotlight in marketing, and so it gives the false misconception that the audience hasn’t shifted at all these past years.
Gender in Gaming: Female gamers
Perhaps traditionally, in the 90s, you would have expected mostly teenage guys to be the primary market for video games and consoles. However, a recent survey from Pew Research showcases how, in the U.S., about 42% of the women surveyed owned a games console, such as an Xbox or Playstation, whereas about 37% of men surveyed said they owned one. Furthermore, data from Statista suggests in 2020, it was calculated that women accounted for around 41% of all games in the U.S., while males made up the other 59%. Comparing this to 2006, where women accounted for only 38%, suggests a growing female audience in the video games industry, and seriously discounts the stereotype of the gamer being a guy, as there is clearly a smaller rift between the two genders when it comes to video games, and this gap has been closing over the years.
This is an important note to developers on the topic of mind keeping in mind a forever changing audience for when they are creating and planning new games. Although female gamers can still enjoy the aforementioned big guns, large explosion shooter games featuring macho characters, it is easy for gamers to be swayed away from playing a game from a poor first impression; and perhaps how you immerse both genders into the gaming experience may differ. This goes the same for casual versus hardcore gamers and, how for the former, it may be easier to never pick up a game if they are not immersed into properly.
Although developers will and should make the games which they think they will enjoy making, and people will enjoy playing, it could be a good idea to diversify the playable characters and in-game mechanics or interactions with other players to potentially accommodate different types of gamers.
Is the typical gamer young or old?
Although people perceive the typical gamer to be a teenage boy, this doesn’t necessarily hold in reality. Research by Statista showcases how, out of 4’000 American respondents, 38% (the largest chunk) of video gamers are in the age bracket of 18-34. The second largest age bracket is then 34-54 years old, accounting for 26% of the respondents, while the under 18 years old bracket held 21% of respondents, saying they play video games. However, research also suggests that the younger audiences spend more time on average playing video games.
The reason behind this is that gaming has become not just a hobby for many people. This is because, as generations have grown up around video games, gaming has become a part of their life. First of all, gaming is no longer just grabbing a console and playing the most recent game you bought. Individuals can access libraries of purchasable games on their games consoles, watch other people play videogames as they livestream their gameplay, or upload highlights to youtube, and even play video games professionally, and watch others do the same even. Video games have, alongside the generations which first played them, matured as an industry, hobby and lifestyle for many; so, as the generations have grown alongside their video games, so has the age of the average – or “typical” – gamer.
Effect of age and demographics on video games tastes
People of different ages are interested in different things, that is a fact. Your grandad will probably not be interested in the same first-person shooter you might be playing with your friends on the weekends; and similarly, you may not be interested in spending your weekly hours playing some single player strategy game which you grandfather has mastered.
Perhaps even from your own experience you know that people’s gaming habits change as they grow older and develop different habits or interests. Whether you can stay up all night gaming, or not, also influences those games which you may choose to play. Some studies have actually shown that as gamers age, the appeal of competition and competitive games drops the most. Whereas strategy games are seen as the most age-sable games category, which seems to be consistently popular amongst different age groups.
On the first point about competition also is interesting as there is a clear difference seen amongst genders. Specifically, younger men have got the highest appetite for competitive games, which the drops quite strongly with age, while for female gamers the appetite starts at a relatively lower level, but doesn’t experience as steep a drop as the appetite for competition does for male gamers.
Gamers under 18
Maybe every child is a bit of a gamer… A lot of kids nowadays have access to some electronic device and the internet, and therefore into the world of gaming. What is more technology has seen an increased degree of inclusion in to the educational system, and so whether or not Under 18 year olds play much video games at home as a leisure activity, they are still exposed to video games at school.
Video games in schools can be used for leisure purposes, as well as used as support for the education of children. This has occurred as technology has wildly improved, but also been more recognized in society as a force for good, as opposed to a simple waste of time. Each new generation has been more accepting of video games, and therefore there has been a consistently growing force behind the support for video games being included in society at-large. But with young gamers, it’s important to take into account the relatively short attention span that they have, while making sure that the content of the video games is purely education (at least in schools) and doesn’t cause them any harm.
The demographics of gaming have been consistently changing year on year, and the stereotype of the “typical gamer” – wherever it came from – simply doesn’t fit the audience for video games as it is today. This is because video games and technology have been becoming more immersive, and genuinely useful or geared towards persons of different ages, genders and interests when it comes to the categories of video games. Video games can also be used for educational purposes, and since video games can be accessed by anyone from anywhere, wherever there is a device and internet connection, it is about time we break the stigma about video games and maximize the good it can bring for us.