Video games have become a part of the mainstream of our culture. Since video games went commercial in 1971 (Computer Space) they have grown in popularity to the point we see today with multiple platforms, and so many varieties of games as to literally have something for everyone.
So why then, when you are having a conversation regarding gamers does an image similar to the one pictured here come to mind? Okay maybe they have more clothes on, but there is a similarity in the descriptions. Typically they are heavy set, frequently wear glasses, often have body odor issues, are social misfits that are more at home with their computer/console than they are with fellow human beings.
I am here to tell you that this description may have had it’s place in the early days of the video game age (after all stereotypes are usually grounded in fact at some point). However, these images cannot be further from the truth about a majority of the masses who play video games.
According to the Entertainment Software Association
- Sixty-eight percent of American households play computer or video games.
- The average game player is 35 years old and has been playing games for 12 years.
- The average age of the most frequent game purchaser is 39 years old.
- Forty percent of all game players are women. In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (34 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (18 percent).
- In 2009, 25 percent of Americans over the age of 50 play video games, an increase from nine percent in 1999.
- Thirty-seven percent of heads of households play games on a wireless device, such as a cell phone or PDA, up from 20 percent in 2002.
A December 2008 study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 53 percent of all Americans over the age of 18 play video games.
So the question becomes, if all of these statistics show that gamers are a diverse cross section of the population, why does the stereotype continue? The answer is not an easy one to pin down. Perhaps it is the way video gamers are portrayed by the media that continues to propagate the stereotype in our culture. Perhaps it is society itself that doesn’t want to admit that they take time out to play games.
I do not have the answer to this question. Games have evolved a great deal since their humble commercial beginnings in 1971. Perhaps way back then it was the quintessential nerd/geek that was at the forefront of playing these games. Today however, there is a game to suit just about every dynamic in our culture. It is time for us to set aside the old stereotypes and accept that a good portion of us can now call ourselves gamers.