Americans are coming together in droves to enjoy the same leisure activity: gaming. Everyone is doing it, no, literally: everyone. Only 13% of adults are not gaming, which means advertisers are diverting all their efforts to in-game campaigns, a pivot that could predict a gloomy future for TV and social media.
With the lifting of mask mandates and Covid restrictions across the United States, it’s time to assess which quarantine behaviors will drop off and disappear and which have become indelible fixtures of daily life.
Streaming movies and TV, toiling away the hours on social media, and gaming have satisfied important needs during quarantine: they kept people connected.
However, gaming has stolen ahead of the race, proving the outlet most people flock to, representing surprising numbers and demographics.
“Video games will rot your brain” used to be a familiar refrain uttered from judgmental adults who never lived in a world with digital gaming options. The classic gaming image involves children sitting in front of the TV with a large gaming console hooked up.
If those were unavailable, kids would have to venture down to an arcade, usually in a mall. Opinions on gaming have altered, with some studies suggesting gaming can even be good for the brain. Regardless, people want to game, and kids aren’t the only ones playing. The gaming instruments have also expanded, making them accessible to a whole new group of people.
According to a recent report from Dentsu, 55% of gamers play on a mobile phone or tablet. This advance in technology beyond the home gaming console or stationary arcade game permits players to game anywhere, anytime, even on the commute to work. Gaming from your phone also presents calming anonymity.
No one else on the train, in the waiting room, or at the office will know what’s happening. So does anonymity help more people play? And does the covert nature of a cell phone game contribute to the intrigue and excitement of playing?
Why Gaming is Growing
Gaming has reached surprising demographics—64% of Gen X, 62% of Baby Boomers, and 66% of women. Many consider women non-typical gamers, and these numbers only show that gaming isn’t just for teenage boys anymore. Gaming is an equal-opportunity activity that could become more important than TV or social media.
There are 214 million video game players in the United States. Adults aged 18-34 make up for 38% of that population, approximately 81 million people. In second place are adults 35-54, who comprise 36%. Most shocking, those under 18 only account for 21% of total gamers. Why has gaming become appealing to so many different groups of people?
The Dentsu report indicates that 73% of people play games for escapism or to reduce stress. 72% game to fill spare time, whether on a commute or waiting for an appointment. The competitive dimension is also a contributing favor, with 73% saying that playing against others provides them with a sense of achievement.
One cannot neglect the social component: 50% of players say gaming allows them to be creative and express themselves, 40% enjoy belonging to a community, and 35% game to socialize.
What is the most popular genre among gamers? Puzzle games continue to dominate, with Candy Crush Saga still the most popular game at 13.8 million downloads across Android and iOs.
The way people interact with ads differs for gamers. Contrary to Facebook, where most people mute the volume when ads play, gamers have expressed a positive reaction to brands interacting with them during a game. Two-thirds of brand videos were watched with the sound off on Facebook.
However, 66% of gamers like in-game advertising, while 44% say they purchased from a brand after it was marketed to them during a game. Advertisers are quick to notice, and video game advertising will only grow. It is estimated to reach 1.7 billion by 2025.
What about spending money on games? Three-quarters of gamers admit to spending money on gameplay, with 31% believing their spending will increase. In addition, 52% of adult gamers admit to using a console, which is one of the reasons why the gaming industry can boast billion-dollar growth from both hardware and in-app purchases.
People don’t seem to mind paying for their games. The recent price hikes of Amazon Prime and Netflix could have gamers reevaluating their streaming services.
Even with the easing of restrictions, 37% believe their gameplay will increase this year, while 57% think it will stay the same. Its combined popularity for all ages suggests that gaming was not just a way to pass the time in lockdown but instead the emergence of a new pastime that won’t be going away.
Streaming and social media platforms will have to up their game to lure back advertisers if they wish to compete. Until then, gaming continues its reign of dominance as an accessible and creative leisure activity, enjoyed by a staggering 87% of adults across the country.
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Justin McDevitt is a playwright and essayist from New York City. His latest play HAUNT ME had its first public reading at Theater for the New City in September. He is a contributor for RUE MORGUE where he lends a queer eye to horror cinema in his column STAB ME GENTLY.