Like to play video games?
You’re in good company, according to the just-published 2022 Essential Facts about the Video Game Industry report, which says about two-thirds of Americans – more than 215 million people – play games regularly.
While this might not be surprising to many, three-quarters of players are over the age of 18, contradicting the common stereotype of a medium dominated by kids, tweens and young teens.
In fact, the average age of a video game player today is 33 years old, according to the report commissioned by the Entertainment Software Association, the Washington, D.C.-based organization that serves as the voice and advocate for the U.S. video game industry.
“The fact we’re seeing more people over 45 years old playing than under 18 just speaks to the growth and adoption of gameplay and how people even later in life continue to gravitate towards games,” says Stanley Pierre-Louis, president and CEO of the ESA, in a telephone interview with USA TODAY. “We found every demographic play games, whether it’s on PC, console or mobile device and there’s something for all tastes.”
In other words, whether you’re a daily Wordle player or slaying enemies in a fantasy role-playing game like Elden Ring, a gamer is a gamer.
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The most popular gaming platform? The smartphone, according to 70% of respondents in this study as the “preferred” device for play, followed by a video game console (52%), personal computer (43%), tablet/iPad (26%) and virtual reality headset (7%). About 60% of respondents say they enjoy playing on multiple devices.
At 65%, puzzle games were the most popular genre.
More players over the age of 65 say they play to “use my brain” than any other age group (68%). For men, two-thirds also play to have fun (67%) and pass time (66%), a similar number to women also play to pass time (70%) and to unwind and relax (66%).
“Just as interesting, perhaps, is the fact 48% of players identify as female and 52% identify as male and so almost an equal gender split,” adds Pierre-Louis, hinting at the popular misconception about game players being mostly male.
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The 2022 Essential Facts about the Video Game Industry report isn’t just about who plays games, but why people play.
The popular reasons are that video games bring joy (93%), provide mental stimulation (91%) and stress relief (89%).
“One area we were heartened to see is in the area of mental health,” Pierre-Louis says. “Particularly with the isolation brought on by the pandemic, people connected through games and enjoyed shared experiences.”
“In 2020, 65% of people said they played together, which jumped to 77% in 2021 and now it’s at an incredible 83% who play together,” he adds. “Games have become a great way to convene with people socially and to connect with family and friends as well as the global community.”
What’s more, families also see the benefits of playing video games together, the ESA found, with 77% of parents regularly play video games with their children.
“Our research confirms that video games contribute to positive mental well-being, help develop important life skills and offer connection and joy,” Pierre-Louis says. “More broadly, 97% of Americans agree that video games have positive benefits.”
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Pierre-Louis says he’s also happy to see much more inclusivity in games – both among the game developers and game players – compared with years’ past: “What we’ve seen over the past few years is the encouragement of creating opportunities for people from underrepresented communities to add their voice to the community of gameplay and so you’re now seeing more games from different perspectives, sometimes along racial lines, gender lines, from the LGTBQ+ community and with those with physical limitations.”
(Pierre-Louis also cites the Xbox Adaptive Controller as a “wonderful tool” for those with dexterity challenges to enjoy games, which “evens the playing field,” quite literally.)
Usually hosted by the ESA every June in Los Angeles, the 2022 E3 Expo was preemptively canceled during the omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but will be back in full force next year.
“We’re excited about coming back in 2023 with both a digital and an in-person event,” Pierre-Louis says. “As much as we love these digital events and as much as they reach people and we want that global reach, we also know that there’s a really strong desire for people to convene – to be able to connect in person and see each other and talk about what makes games great.”
At last year’s digital-only E3, diversity, equity and inclusion were key themes, including the ESA’s announced $1 million partnership with Black Girls Code to help educate and support girls interested in technology and an interactive panel that discussed a Gerald A. Lawson Endowment fund at the University of Southern California, (USC), to support black and Indigenous students who wish to pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees in video game design and computer science.