Video games transcend race, gender, age and political affiliation—something we’re more aware of now than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic enticed individuals from all walks of life into the world of gaming as a form of comfort, stress relief and joy, creating a world they might not have experienced since childhood.
Now, there are roughly 227 million American video game players with an ever-increasing portion of them turning to gaming for connection. More than 75 percent of gamers play video games with others at least once per week whereas last year that figure was closer to 66 percent. Additionally, 74 percent of parents actually play games with their children at least once per week, up from 55 percent in 2020.
The Entertainment Software Association’s (ESA) 2021 Essential Facts About the Video Game Industry includes insights about the playing habits and attitudes of 4,000 American gamers ages 18 and over based on a survey it conducted in February 2021. Here are the report’s key takeaways.
Video Game Player Community
Sixty-seven percent of Americans over the age of 18 and 76 percent under 18 play video games. The average age for a gamer is 31 years old as 80 percent of players are over 18. Here’s a more detailed breakdown:
- 20 percent under 18
- 38 percent between 18 and 34
- 14 percent between 35 and 44
- 12 percent between 45 and 54
- Nine percent between 55 and 64
- Seven percent 65 and up
Across all players and ages, 55 percent are male and 45 percent are female. As for ethnicity, 73 percent are white, 9 percent are Hispanic, 8 percent are black and six percent are Asian or Pacific Islander. These stats aren’t completely out of line with the overall demographic of the US. Of those the ESA surveyed, 87 percent agree that gamers are a diverse group of people.
Video Games And COVID
Video games provided Americans with a welcome respite from the struggles brought on by COVID-19. Here are some statistics the ESA found in the intersection between video games and the pandemic:
- 55 percent of players played more during the pandemic
- 90 percent reported being likely to continue playing after social distancing is no longer required
- 55 percent reported video games having provided them with stress relief during the pandemic
- 48 percent reported video games having provided them with a distraction during the pandemic
- 71 percent of parents said that video games have provided them with a “much-needed” break from their child
- 66 percent of parents agreed that video games made the transition to distance learning easier
- 70 percent of parents reported allowing their children to do more when it comes to video games during the pandemic
- 59 percent of parents said their child used education games—especially math—during the pandemic with 63 percent of them labeling those games very or extremely effective
Benefits Of Play
Americans weren’t only using video games to reduce stress during the pandemic, but also turned to them as a way to connect and be entertained. Of the reasons studied, unwinding, relaxing and decompressing was the one option cited most frequently (66 percent); followed by filling time while taking a break, waiting or commuting (52 percent); to escape and be highly entertained (51 percent) and to spend time alone (48 percent).
Eighty-nine percent of respondents said that video games have the ability to bring together people from different walks of life—whether that be culture, race, age, political affiliation or physical abilities. Additionally, the same percentage of people stated that video games create accessible experiences for people with different abilities.
Overall, the study points to the contention that video gameplay has a positive impact on gamers’ lives:
- 90 percent of players experience joy through video games
- 87 percent of players experience mental stimulation through video games
- 87 percent of players experience stress-relief through video games
- 81 percent of players develop teamwork and collaboration skills through video games
Seventy-seven percent of gamers play with others online or in-person at least once per week – up from 65 percent in 2020. On average, players spend 7.5 hours per week playing online and 4.5 hours per week playing in-person with others. Of those that share in the game-playing experience, 53 percent play with friends, 31 percent with partners, 31 percent with other family members, 23 percent with a team or “online-only” friends and 6 percent with parents.
One of the main benefits of video gameplay is its ability to introduce us to new friendships or relationships, as 78 percent of survey respondents reported. Fifty-four percent of gamers have actually met people they wouldn’t have otherwise met as 42 percent have made a good friend, spouse or significant other through video games. Additionally, 53 percent said that video games have helped them stay connected to friends and family.
Player Habits And Preferences
- Devices used for video gameplay:
- 57 percent smartphone
- 46 percent game console
- 42 percent PC
- Hours spent playing per week:
- 29 percent 1-3 hours
- 77 percent 3+ hours
- 51 percent 7+ hours
- Most popular genres played regularly:
- 63 percent casual (e.g., Tetris, Solitaire)
- 39 percent action (e.g., GTA, Super Mario Odyssey)
- 39 percent shooter (e.g., COD, Fortnite)
- 37 percent racing (e.g., Need for Speed, Forza)
- 33 percent family (e.g., Super Mario Party, Just Dance)
- 31 percent adventure (e.g., Uncharted, Resident Evil)
Parents, Families And Video Games
For the majority of American families, video games are a family affair. Parents employ a combination of household rules, parental controls and ratings to determine the right balance for their children. Among parents with children who play regularly, 86 percent are aware of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) ratings, 76 percent use them regularly and 82 percent use parental control settings on at least one of their child’s gaming devices.
Most parents have household rules for video games:
- 90 percent require their children to ask for permission before making any purchase with real money within a game
- 83 percent require their children to ask for permission before playing
- 78 percent have screen time rules relating either to time of day or duration of play
- 77 percent require their children to ask for permission before communicating with others online
As much as 74 percent of parents play games with their children at least weekly in 2021 – up from 55 percent in 2020. Of the reasons cited for playing with their children, the top three were for fun (57 percent), to socialize (54 percent) and to spend time together (53 percent).
Video games provide families with more than just fun; Americans believe that they can be educational (80 percent), improve cognitive skills (75 percent), improve creative skills (68 percent) and teach children how to win and lose in a healthy way (53 percent).
Profiles Of Players
Men and women between ages 18 and 34 play video games to escape and to be entertained (56 percent) as more women than men report playing for the purpose of unwinding. The majority of this demographic play on console (58 percent), with others (89 percent) and play for more than 3 hours per week (80 percent). Additionally, 53 percent play casual games, 53 percent play shooter games and 51 percent play action games.
Men and women between ages 35 and 44 most commonly play with their children (56 percent) and friends (45 percent). The majority of this demographic play on their smartphones (64 percent), with others (81 percent) and play for more than 3 hours per week (76 percent). Additionally, 66 percent play casual games, 48 percent play racing games and 47 percent play action games.
On average, men between ages 45 and 54 spend over 10 hours per week playing with others or online while women in this age group spend over 11 hours per week doing so.
The majority of this demographic play on their smartphones (59 percent), with others (68 percent) and play for more than 3 hours per week (75 percent). Additionally, 72 percent play casual games, 36 percent play arcade games like Pac-Man and Pinball FX3 and 31 percent play action games.