Contrary to popular belief, videogames aren’t dominated by 12-year-old boys.
In fact, according to the Entertainment Software Association and its just-released report, 2019 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry, the median age of a U.S. gamer today is 33 years old and almost evenly split between male and female players (54% compared to 46%, respectively).
Conducted by Ipsos for the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), and with additional data provided by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and the NPD Group, this annual study is billed as the most in-depth and targeted look at the evolving interactive entertainment space. The PDF report is free to download at theesa.com.
“Today, there are 164 million adults who play video games in the United States, and three-quarters of all American households have at least one gamer in them,” states Stan Pierre-Louis, Chief Executive Officer of the ESA, which serves as the voice and advocate for the dollar video game industry.
Shattering the pervasive gamer stereotype, “there are just as many people age 50 and older playing games than those under 18, and there are more women playing games than teenage boys,” adds Pierre-Louis, in a telephone interview with USA TODAY. “So, you’re looking at a very wide demographic here.”
A “gamer,” according to the ESA, is someone who plays games for more than one hour a week.
While there are exceptions, Pierre-Louis agrees boomers tend to gravitate more to puzzle games, perhaps played on a smartphone or computer, compared to action and sports games played on a TV-based console, which typically skews younger. “There really is a game for everyone and for every demographic.”
Pierre-Louis says they’re also seeing an expansion in ethnic diversity, too. “Our industry works hard to ensure the demographics of those who make video games better reflects the diversity of those who play the games.”
As for the shrinking gender gap, Pierre-Louis says girls who play games are three times more likely to end up in a degree and career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) than those who don’t identify as a gamer.
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Girls who game
As one of the most popular publishers of mobile and online games, Zynga’s games have been played by more than one billion people, says the 12-year-old San Francisco-based company.
Top franchises include CSR Racing, Empires & Puzzles, Merge Dragons!, Words With Friends, Zynga Poker, and FarmVille.
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In line with the ESA’s findings, more than half of Zynga’s players are women.
It’s the company’s “very broad and diverse player base” that contributes to its success, believes Phuong Phillips, Zynga’s Chief Legal Officer and Executive Sponsor of Women at Zynga, an internal employee resource group whose mission is to empower women to succeed and become leaders in their careers and communities.
“Female gamers are a high priority for us, and they are recognized as our primary demographic in some key franchises – so we work to create experiences they want,” explains Phillips. “In designing our games or creating new features, we constantly ask the question, ‘What will our players thank us for?’ Understanding what our players want is a critical part of being able to deliver on that.”
Phillips says Zynga also enjoys 50-50 gender balance on its board of directors since 2017 (4 out of 8 members).
Microsoft’s Xbox division told a bold step toward inclusion last year when the video game console maker launched its Xbox Adaptive Controller ($99) to address the needs of gamers with limited mobility.
Designed for use with Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs, the white hub works with a range of external assistive devices – including switches, buttons, mounts, and joysticks — to create a custom controller experience to suit an individual’s needs.
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Several online videos show gamers playing with one hand, or feet, and even a mouth-based accessory for quadriplegics (called QuadStick).
“Our industry’s goal to include everyone – not just focus on ethnic, gender and age diversity – but also expand that to other groups, including the LGBT community, veterans, and the accessibility community,” says Pierre-Louis.
As for Xbox Adaptive Controller, Pierre-Louis says the ESA was “gratified and excited to see the positive response” for the 2019 Super Bowl commercial, and for Microsoft “sending the message that play is for everyone.”
Earlier this year, the ESA Foundation bestowed Xbox Adaptive Controller with its 2019 Champion Award, which reinforces that “every person in the world can be empowered to realize their full potential,” says Pierre-Louis.
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