Video games, the dark horse of the couch race
It’s Tuesday night and I just pissed off Night City’s sketchiest crime boss, I’m gonna have to shoot my way out. I’m a 9-5 dad by day, and an up and coming gangster at night in the year 2077. Well at least on my computer at least. 9 out of 10 times for my couch leisure time I make the choice of video games over TV or social media. That may seem like a lot, but people like me are on the rise you just haven’t realized it yet. The demographics of gamers are changing, and “normal people” are more often choosing games over alternatives. In the race for couch time, video games are the dark horse that’s gonna take it all.
Aunt Judy, the World of Warcraft Master
When you think of a video gamer, who comes to mind?
A teenager? Or an overweight 38 year old virgin covered in Cheeto dust in his mom’s basement?
Yet, the average video game player is a decidedly normal 34 year old. In fact, study after study is finding that many gamers are older. A full 15% of gamers can order off the senior citizen menu at Denny’s .
My own Aunt Judy is massively into World of Warcraft and she’s not alone, the players that play the most WOW are in their 50s.
My aunt isn’t the only woman playing games. Despite most major studios marketing games to young men, women make up almost half of gamers across all devices and genres, and their percentage is growing.
In fact, the average mobile gamer is more likely to be a 45 year old woman than a teenager .
The funny thing is that people don’t see themselves as “gamers”. I love this quote from Jane McGonigal PhD, who studies video games, “I've talked to so many people who swear they've never played a video game, and they're on level 1200 of Candy Crush Saga"
Video games have always been popular with kids and teens, but they’re rapidly growing in popularity among all major demographics, and with ubiquitous smart phone and computer ownership, these days everyone is a gamer.
So more people in all demographic groups are gamers, but what’s drawing them towards games?
Games will level up your life
I’ll never make the argument that games are superior to socializing with friends in real life, or reading books, but when it comes to couch leisure, games are a vastly superior option to TV and scrolling Instagram.
The first reason is simple. Video games are an active entertainment form. You have to engage with them, you can’t just passively flop on the sofa for mindless entertainment. Even Candy Crush requires you to pay attention - it’s not mindless.
Second, they have tons of benefits, and I suspect that their players know it.
Better visual and mental processing
Daphne Bavalier, a French neuroscientist conducted studies that showed that players of action style video games like Call of Duty had improved visual processing, better multi-tasking skills, and superior mental processing than those that didn’t. In fact, when they had older adults play action games for two weeks they demonstrated marked improvement in mental tests over their benchmark numbers. More importantly those benefits held when the adults were tested again 5 months later.
In short, playing video games will help you keep your eyesight and stay mentally sharp as you age.
Develop future thinking skills
Jane McGonigal, the video game PhD, talks about future thinking skills. She’s found in her research that gamers are better able to predict 2nd and 3rd order effects than the general population. She theorizes that the planning and predicting that gaming takes develops forecasting skills. A very valuable business skill.
Those are two incredible skills, but there are tons of intangible benefits too, like cultural currency. As video games rise as a preferred leisure choice participation allows gamers to be in the “in” group. Watching Game of Thrones was fantastic not just because of the screenwriting, but because of the collective experience of talking about it with coworkers, friends, and family. Today, kids are talking about the latest season of Fortnite and not a TV show.
Or like in my case, Cyberpunk 2077 was one of the biggest video games of 2020, and my playing it puts me in the know.
Show me the numbers
If you’re not already convinced of video games ascension and why you should pay attention, maybe the numbers will convince you.
We collectively talk about the box office takes of the latest Hollywood blockbusters, but we ignore video games.
I’m not sure why.
The highest grossing movie of all time doesn’t even come close to the highest grossing video game of all time? That’s right, GTA V had estimated global earnings of about 6 billion dollars. Avatar, the highest grossing movie, just shy of 4 billion .
Ok, but GTA V is exceptional and has been out for a long time. Well, that’s part of the point, but I’ll take it one step further, video games beat movies right out the gate, time and time again.
The sales of video games in the first three days often beat opening weekend takes for blockbuster movies. 2018’s top video game, Red Dead Redemption 2 beat out 2018’s top movie by more than 80 million dollars in the opening weekend .
That’s not all, video games have significant staying power. Movies are consumed once. Maybe 2 or 3 times. Whereas gamers pour hundreds of hours into major games, with many paying more money over time.
Fortnite is an excellent business case for this, the game’s free to play, but players shell out 10-20 bucks every season for new cosmetics and challenges. This, and constant updates, keeps Fortnite players coming back for more.
Hollywood hasn’t really caught on though. Only Netflix has mentioned Fortnite as a key competitor. In the competition for couch minutes, video games are rapidly taking ground from TV, sports, and movies.
Follow the trends
Video games are already big business, they’re already on the rise among all demographics, there are real benefits to them, and we’re just getting started. That’s the craziest part. They’re gonna be huge. As technology continues to improve and become more and more involved in our lives video games ride that wave. Being a technologically driven industry, video games rapidly adapt or are themselves pushing the frontiers of technology forward. When virtual reality and the Metaverse become a reality, video games, more than any other leisure industry stand to benefit the most.
I’ll leave you with this one last mind blowing fact, if you still haven’t been convinced that video games are on the rise. Right now, more people are watching videos of other people playing video games than watching ESPN, Hulu, and HBO combined .
So not only are people choosing to play games instead of watch TV, but when they are choosing to watch something, they’re watching others play games instead of watching TV.
If you haven’t played video games since you were a kid, you’re fast becoming the minority. Take a look at what’s available out there. Just like TV there’s a game genre for every mood and taste, from casual mobile games, to role playing games that will take you into another world.
Go ahead, turn off the TV, and pick up a video game. It’s what all the cool kids are doing!
- ESA CEO: 64% of U.S. adults are gamers, 41% of players are women, older people are playing more
- Who’s playing mobile games in 2020? Top tips for app publishers
- 'Avatar' Vs 'GTA 5': Video Game Estimated to Earn Almost Double Highest-grossing Film
- Red Dead Redemption 2 Beats Avengers Infinity War On Opening Weekend Sales Record
- More people watch gaming videos and streams than HBO, Netflix, ESPN, and Hulu combined