During sporadic times in my life, I would have labeled myself a gamer. I started with the classic Atari 2600 in the early 1980’s (no old jokes, please). As I developed through my adolescence, the video game industry continued to evolve. The Atari 2600 made way for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the NES made way for Sony’s PlayStation, the Playstation gave way to the Super Nintendo, then PC games, then the Xbox and so on.
Today, my children have access to a wide variety of game types on various platforms – access is quickly becoming less of a barrier for gameplay. Although my boys and I enjoy a wide variety of activities, we love to play games together. Games, both digital and non-digital, are an incredible draw for so many people.
Playing digital games is an immensely popular form of entertainment. Simple real-world observations will attest to gaming’s connection to our youth. Go to a restaurant such as Buffalo Wild Wings and the restaurant passes out tablets for its patrons’ children to use. And on each tablet (besides germs and BBQ sauce) are digital games ready to engage children in gameplay; allowing their parents to have a conversation that doesn’t involve Barney or the Teletubbies. This recurring pattern of turning over mobile devices to children is occurring everywhere. A quick scan at restaurants, in the backseat of cars, or in their own homes helps draw a simple, crystal-clear conclusion – our youth love to ingest media.
“Seventy-two percent of children age 8 and under have used a mobile device for some type of media activity such as playing games, watching videos, or using apps.” (Common Sense Media, 2013)
These children, the members of the always-on generation, are growing up with hundreds of ways to consume and produce information using media.
The digital games of today are visually more appealing, contain better storylines, are developed using better technology, encourage both single and team gameplay, and are easier for new players to adopt than classic games from the past. Today’s digital games are products of an incredibly powerful and awe-inspiring market that have helped spawn “a gaming culture”.
The gaming industry is a booming and lucrative one. After all, there are between 1.75 to 2.1 billion people in the world that play games (Levin, 2016; McKane, 2016). Over the years, the number of new gamers adopting the pastime has steadily increased as more and more countries embrace new technologies. Market research firm Newzoo projected global revenue would reach over 128 billion dollars by the year 2020; an overall compound annual growth rate of 6.2%. The mobile gaming sector accounts for about 42% or 46.1 billion dollars of this revenue. (McDonald, 2017)
Source: Newzoo, 2017
If we focus specifically on the United States, then the data is quite compelling and convinces us that the old barriers and stigmas associated with gaming are rapidly disintegrating. First, 150 million or roughly about 59% of people in the United States spread over a vast variety of backgrounds, ages, genders, socioeconomic statuses play games.
About 65% of U.S. households are home to at least one person who plays 3 or more hours of video games a week. (ESA, 2015)
Next, the preconceived notion that a gamer is a teenage boy playing in a dark basement at night all alone is no longer accurate. It’s true that about 99% of teenage boys do play games at least weekly – that is a no-brainer for many of us to accept. However, the surprising statistic is that 94% of teenage girls also play games weekly. (Lenhart, Kahne, et al., 2008) Here’s a question to consider (No Googling) – What is the average age of a gamer in the United States? 10 years-old? 15 years-old? Maybe 20 or 25? All wrong – the answer is 35 years old. (ESA, 2015) So, more and more people; young and old, boy and girl, novice and expert are jumping into stories, sending game requests through social media, fighting foes, traveling through time, and finding hidden objects in an ever-expanding global culture. A culture that is growing with no signs of slowing down.