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Op-Ed: Too Old My Arse!

Thu, 02/23/2012 - 08:43 — frizzlefry2

Steven “frizzlefry2” Boulé attempts to scramble your brain with gamer demographic trends in his first post as a member of the 2old2play Writing Staff.

old-guy

 

Aren’t you too old to game? We’ve all heard it. The popular refrain from those not in the know. Let’s face it-the general perception of a “gamer” is an overweight, out of shape prepubescent teenage boy. Socially isolated, he sits tucked away in a dark room pounding energy drinks. He sweat's profusely from endless rounds of COD: MW3. His only connection to the outside world? A wireless headset. He is prone to violent fits of anger and screeches at the ruination of his current killstreak.

 

And there you have it 2o2p. Many of the current myths about gamers summed up in approximately sixty words. Overweight and out of shape? Check! Prepubescent teenage boy? Check!  Socially isolated? Check!  Prone to violence? Check! Of course we know better than that. We live it. The naivete of the general public is to be expected. The naivete of mainstream media is unacceptable. Mainstream media is the primary information source for the general public. The expectation is that information presented by them is accurate and complete. Perpetuating these myths while an accurate representation of video game culture exists reeks of irresponsibility. Who am I kidding, mainstream media is always responsible! Right? Wrong!  Let’s clear up a few of these myths, shall we?

Damn, that Mass Effect 3 DEMO has some serious GRAPHICS!

Ok, so this section has nothing to do with the Mass Effect 3 demo. We’ll discuss Commander Shepard and his galactic exploits in due time. Let’s be honest, many of you would probably skip this section if it was titled “A Brief Synopsis on the Study of Demography.”  Now that you’re here, read on!

 

Demography is the study of populations. Specifically, the statistical characteristics of populations. Age, gender and race are a few of the most commonly studied demographics. Demographics break down larger populations into its sub-populations. Once sub-populations are identified, the characteristics of representative members of each sub-population are determined. Demographic trends indicate the change in population demographics over time.

 

easy

 

That was easy, wasn’t it? Quick and painless!  Now onto something every gamer should be familiar with...

 

Oooh, fancy acronyms!

 

Formed in 1994 as the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA) and renamed in July 2003, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) serves as the trade association of the video and computer game industry. Its membership boasts many of the top publishers in the world. Heavyweights such as Capcom, Electronic Arts and Sony Computer Entertainment fill its ranks. Many gamers are undoubtedly familiar with the ESA via its yearly presentation of the gaming nirvana that is the  Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).  So why the lesson on fancy acronyms you ask?

 

Mmmmmmnnnn, data!

 

data

 

No not this Data!

 

It turns out the ESA releases a nifty little report each year at E3. Titled Essential Facts About The Computer and Video Game Industry, the report is a yearly study on the computer and video game industry and includes an analysis of video gamer demographics. It gathers data from approximately 1,200 households that identify as “owning either or both a video game console or a personal computer used to run entertainment software.” The report is broken into five sections. Who is Playing is the analysis of gamer demographics. At Play details how players play. It includes information on online games, parents and games, computer and video game sales by ESRB rating and top selling games and game genres. The Bottom Line details sales information and total consumer spend on the video game industry. Who We Are is the ESA’s mission statement and a list of its current members. Other Resources is a list of ESA partners.  

 

Now, I’m a data guy. Blame it on my occupation. The Biotech industry will do that to you. I’ve learned that data usually tells a pretty accurate story. The numbers are what the numbers are. If you want to know the real story behind something-study its data. Since my most common reaction when asked “aren’t you too old to game?” is to reach for my Qwack-O-Ray and turn the unsuspecting fool into a quacking water fowl (link included for those not familiar with this platforming gem available on the little black beauty that is the PS3) I decided to research gamer demographics. Is there data? What does the data tell us? A lot, actually.   

   

Oooh, eye candy!

 

 

% American households that play computer/video games

% of gamers that play games with other gamers in person

2011

72%

65%

2010

67%

64%

2009

68%

62%

2008

65%

59%

20071

67%

2

20061

69%

2

 

1=Category named “American heads of households who play computer or video games”

2=Category not included in report

Demographic trends from 2006-2011 indicate that gaming continues to grow in popularity as there is an increase in the number of American households playing video and computer games. Beginning in 2008 the ESA report includes social gaming as a category. Trends indicate the explosion in popularity of social gaming and demonstrate the growth in gaming from a single person experience to a more social endeavour. These data are contradictory to the myth of a socially isolated gamer.

 

 

Average game player age

Average number of years adult gamers have been playing

Male/female average number of playing years

2011

37

12

13m/10f

2010

34

12

13m/10f

2009

35

12

12m/10f

2008

35

13

15m/12f

2007

33

13

14m/11f

2006

33

12

10m/8f

 

m=male; f=female

Demographic trends from 2006-2011 indicate an increase in average gamer age. We could attribute this increase to adult gamers aging each year. If that were true we should expect to see a similar concurrent rise in the average number of playing years of gamers. The data indicate the average number of years gamers have been playing remains relatively stable. We could attribute this relative stability to an influx of new adult gamers. Curiously, 2007 and 2008 data show the longest average of playing years for both the male and female categories. Between 2008 and 2009 there is a three and two year drop in average number of playing years between the male and female categories respectively. We could attribute this drop to an outflux of adult gamers. This outflux could also explain the relative stability of average game player age and average number of playing years. These data clearly show that gamers are not all prepubescent teenage boys.

 

 

Gender (m/f) of game players

Women age 18 or older 1

Boys age 17 or younger 1

2011

58%m/42%f

37%

13%

2010

60%m/40%f

33%

20%

2009

60%m/40%f

34%

18%

2008

60%m/40%f

33%

18%

2007

62%m/38%f

31%

20%

2006

62%m/38%f

30%

23%

 

m=male; f=female

1=portion (%) of game playing population

Demographic trends from 2006-2011 indicate that gaming continues to gain popularity among females. The data clearly indicate game player gender is approaching equilibrium. At current growth rates we could see gender equilibrium occur between 2018-2020. Interestingly, since 2006, women age 18 or older make up a significantly larger portion of the overall gaming population than boys age 17 or under. Furthermore, the data indicate popularity of video gaming among females is at an all time high while at an all time low for boys age 17 or younger. We can draw two observations from these data: the gaming population consists of more than just  prepubescent teenage boys (yes, I am beating the proverbial dead horse!) and the number of female video gamers is clearly on the rise.

 

 

Under 18 years 1

18-49 years 1

50+ years 1

2011

18%

53%

29%

2010

25%

49%

26%

2009

25%

49%

26%

2008

25%

49%

26%

2007

28%

48%

24%

2006

31%

44%

25%

 

1=age of game players

Demographic trends from 2006-2011 indicate the largest video game demographic is the 18-49 year old demographic. Furthermore, since 2008 the 50+ year demographic has been the second largest demographic while the under 18 year demographic has been the smallest. We could argue that these trends are simply a result of aging. Tracking the influx of new gamers and the outflux of older gamers would provide us with a clearer picture; one where we could determine if these trends are a result of an aging gamer population. Moreover, it would be interesting to break the 18-49 gamer demographic into two distinct demographics: 18-25 and 25-49 year old. This too would provide a clearer picture on gamer aging and the ebb and flow of the makeup of the gaming population. These data clearly refute the notion that “you are too old to game” and provide the clearest picture that adults comprise the majority of video gamers today.  

What does all this mean?

 

confused

 

Demography and demographic trends are far from perfect. Boiled down to their core they are generalizations about populations. Demographics, relatively speaking, are based on a small sample size. Thus, the characteristics of representative members may not be the same as those in the overall population. They are merely predictive of the rest of the population. If a census was taken on the entire American population regarding video game demographics would the numbers be the same? Probably not. Would they be closer to or further away from the numbers presented in the ESA reports? My money is on closer to the ESA reports.    

 

82percent

 

Aren’t you too old to game? You are not. I am not. We are not. In fact, we are the majority. We are the 82%!  Say it loud and say it proud!

 

The next time someone asks you “Aren’t you too old to game?” go grab your data and tell them “Too old my arse!”

 

If you’d like to check out more on this topic, here are some additional resources:

 

2011 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry

2010 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry

2009 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry

2008 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry

2007 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry

2006 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry

Reality is Broken

Gaming Essays

 

About the Author

Steven “frizzlefry2” Boulé is an avid indoors-man. He currently resides in New Hampshire where he is an active member of Task Force 141. He frequently swims in the River Styx and tirelessly works to rid the universe of the evil Dr. Nefarious. Steven’s favorite game genres include platformers, action/adventure, RPG’s and first person shooters.

 

Comments? You can post them on ElektraFi's Blog or in the 2o2p Front Page News forum.

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