In the popular imagination, video games are a young man’s, well, game. This used to be a perception rooted in fact, but it’s not the case anymore. Not only are women now just as likely (almost) to play video games as men, but also the average age of gamers has been increasing steadily, both in the US and around the world.
Everyone gets older, but not all of us put away childhood things or give up the pleasures of our youth. It turns out that video games are one of the activities that we stick with as we grow up. The first generation of gamers, who started playing in the late 1970s and early 1980s, will now be hitting their 50s, and many of them are still at it. Their children may be anywhere from their teens to their 30s, and many of them are also gamers. Meanwhile, a third-generation, who are the grandchildren of the original gamers, are also just starting to pick up the controls.
This shift in demographics, which now puts the average age of a gamer at around 34, is not just about the original players getting older, however. Changes in the way that we play games, and the variety of games that are available, also mean that computer and online games are more accessible and appealing to older people.
In the last few years, we’ve seen mobile taking an increasing share of the games market. Most of us now use our phones as the main way that we access the internet, and better connections mean that we are more likely to play online rather than purchase games on disc or as downloads. Mobile gaming via our phones has opened up the field to a far wider range of people than would play on a gaming PC, PlayStation or Xbox.
More games available
Violent shoot ’em ups may largely appeal to the teenage boy in us all, but there is an increasing number of video games designed with adults in mind. As online gambling becomes legal and regulated in an increasing number of states across the US, older players who enjoy the sophisticated thrill of classic casino games are joining the video game audience for the first time.
These can also be played on mobile, using apps such as the SugarHouse Casino app, which is available for both iOS and Android operating systems. Supposedly, this app has a wider selection of games than the web browser version, and certainly, in both cases, there are over 500 options to choose from, including slots, blackjack, roulette, and video poker. These real-money games are not designed with kids in mind and are more likely to attract young professionals looking for first-rate entertainment.
Breakdown by age
According to the reputable market and consumer data provider Statista, in 2020, 38% of gamers in the US were aged 18-34. 26% were aged 35-54, while just 21% were under 18. 15% were 55 or older.
A survey of 13 countries of gamers aged 10-65 in 2017 by Statista showed that worldwide, 35% of gamers were aged 21-35, 28% were aged 36-50, 22% were aged 10-20, and 15% were aged 51-65.
In 2014, the average age of gamers was considered to be 31, but there were more gamers among the over-35s than among the under 35s. Interestingly, female gamers, who make up 46% of US players, tend to be slightly older than their male counterparts.
The future of gaming and gamers
What can we expect in the future? Will the average age of gamers continue to rise? This may be the case, though there are several factors to consider. First-generation gamers may well continue to play as they pass retirement age. After all, unlike traditional sports, peak physical fitness is not a requirement for enjoying video games, though failing eyesight could be a problem.
It looks likely, however, that younger generations will also continue to enthusiastically adopt gaming, especially as the technology mutates and improves. This means that the future will see a broader demographic and a more multi-generational gaming market.
We already see parents playing video games with their children, either for educational purposes, family bonding, or simply having fun and introducing each other to new favorites. This will become much more widespread. Video gaming is here to stay and is now as normal a part of family life as board games or TV.
Increased life expectancy and slowing population growth may soon see older people outnumber the young. If that’s the case, then we’ll also have more older gamers. Most likely, however, is that the average age of gamers will level out in the late 30s, with a healthy spread on either side.