The Entertainment Software Association just released their newest data on the current state of video game play in the United States. The document reports that sales of video game software and hardware topped $25 billion last year, the average age of a gamer is 37, and 29% of gamers are over the age of 50. The report also notes that 72% of American households play video games.
Given the popularity of video games and my job title, I’m not surprised when I’m asked, “Are you a gamer?” People who ask the question usually envision a certain type of gamer, someone who spends most of his or her non-working hours playing video games. That is not me. Because I’m married with four kids, I have less free time than I used to and I split those spare moments among video games and lots of other activities: visiting with friends and family, reading, being outside, exercising, and playing non-electronic games (I’m a big fan of Euro games like Settlers of Catan). I have loved video games since I was young and still play them almost daily, but my play now comes in short bursts on my iPhone or late at night after everyone’s in bed. So I answer, “Yes, I’m a gamer.”
I believe we’re approaching a time when we won’t differentiate between gamers or non-gamers. While people born before 1965 might not have encountered video games until their teenage years or even adulthood, virtually all American kids today grow up with games. The new data shows that once people begin to play video games, they almost always keep playing them. Marc Prensky, author of Digital Game-Based Learning, terms people who grow up with video games “digital natives.” Over time, digital natives replace non-digital natives and the proportion of gamers grows.
Plus, the ever-increasing diversity of game types gives people more playing options. Some individuals might play Call of Duty: Black Ops or World of Warcraft for hours on end, while others might only game occasionally: tapping a smart phone while standing in line, playing a social game on Facebook, or clicking on a casual game site. Games come in such varying forms and on so many different platforms, that the ecosystem of digital play supports a thriving diversity of players.
We don’t differentiate between movie-watchers and non-movie watchers, and I believe one day the same will be true of gamers and non-gamers. People won’t even bother asking “Are you a gamer?” Instead they’ll simply ask “What are you playing?”
Where do you fit on the gaming spectrum? Are you a hard-core player, casual player, or something in between? Would you describe yourself as a gamer? Let us know.
By Jon-Paul Dyson, Director, International Center for the History of Electronic Games and Vice President for Exhibits