Nerds in basements. That’s all we are. Fat, smelly, hairy, antisocial nerds. Invariably young and male and living at home with disappointed parents, we have no friends, no jobs, violent tendencies, and an extensive fascination with unconventional pornography.
Well, according to last night’s VGX Award show that’s what we are. Simon Nash already did a great job highlighting the tasteless representation of our pastime VGX was responsible for. But man, I just need to words about it too. This will only be short, but there will be numbers.
Lots of people play video games. Like, lots. As in, billions. Every single study that has been produced in recent times has identified this. Sales data backs it up. Hell, the fact that video games are referenced constantly in pop culture – including stalwarts like The Simpsons and South Park – with songs and movies about them shows that games have immense reach.
Gaming isn’t a sub-culture any more. It’s a part of everyday life.
Exactly how many people play video games? Well, the numbers vary according to several sources. The US Electronic Software Association discovered that 58% of Americans play video games, based on a 2013 survey. The same study showed that 51% of US households owned a dedicated gaming console, with an average of two people who play games in each of those households. Each game console owning house averages two consoles. In Europe, the Interactive Software Federation of Europe found that, in 2012, 40% of Great Britons had played at least one game in the past year, while 61% of parents had children who played games. Finally, a Bond University study in Australia discovered that a massive 95% of households had devices capable of playing games.
Such large discrepancies in results worldwide can be attributed to the methodologies used by the respective surveyors. For example, the ISFE asked people online aged 16-64, meaning the 40% is of that limited demographic, while the Bond study’s whopping 95% figure is based on a simple yes/no response to having a game capable device in the house. Either way, the demographics show that a good whack of people play video games, with studies showing the trend is towards the majority.
Who plays games? Everybody. This one most studies agree with. ESA found that the average age for gamers was 30, with 32% of people under 18, 32% 18-35, and 36% above 36. The ISFE in Britain found that the largest distribution of gamers was among the 35-44 age demographic. And Bond found that the average age of gamers was 32, compared to the average age of Australians which was 36.
The gender split was also representative of this universal trend. ESA was 55% males 45% females, ISFE was 54% male to 46% female, and Bond was 53% male to 47% female. No study singled out any particular genre or type of game as being preferred by one gender, although the ISFE study did tend to find that men were more heavily represented in online multiplayer games than women (21% to 8%). If I were to hazard a guess as to why, I’d probably say it is due to the generally toxic treatment and constant overwhelming harassment of identified women online.
Beyond the studies and surveys, we have the simple fact that holy crap video games make, like, forty gazillion dollars a second.
The biggest entertainment release in history? The title goes to a video game. Not just once, but EVERY YEAR. Every year, either Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto pulls records. Modern Warfare 2 made $550 million in five days. Grand Theft Auto V made $800 million in ONE DAY, and broke the billion ceiling in under three. The Playstation 4 sold one million units on its first day in the US, going on to sell 2.1 million units worldwide in under three weeks. The Xbox One sold a million units worldwide day one. To put it into perspective, Avatar, the highest grossing film ever, made $26.75 million on its opening day, and $77 million over its opening weekend. It took a truly sluggish 19 days to breach the one billion dollar mark. Video games make earnings Hollywood can only dream of, in a time-span that would make the biggest film studios envious.
Video games are a true cultural phenomenon, eclipsing the insipid, anemic perception spat about by the VGX Awards. We are far from the sad, basement-dwelling losers of myth. To limit our identity to a stereotype based on a widely accepted hobby – a thing we like to do, for our own enjoyment, like billions around the world – is to reduce a widely varied group of people to nothing more than a bad joke.
I like video games, you like video games, billions of people like video games. Let’s enjoy them together.