Earnest’s Demographic of Video Gaming

Earnest, a technology company that analyzes data pulled from loan applications, surveys, and/or publicly available data sources released their finding on the demographics of video game consumers. In this case, they pulled their data from student loan refinancing applications. Data sets on video games usages and gamers are relatively rare so I figured I’d examine their findings and share. Despite the less than ideal data source, let’s examine what their key findings were:

Key Takeaway

  • Younger people, especially those aged 18-24, are more likely to make video game-related purchases than older individuals.
  • Men are more than three times as likely to make gaming purchases than women.
  • Individuals with high school diplomas or Associate degrees are the most likely to make gaming purchases, while dentists are the least likely.
  • People making more than $90,000 are less likely to make gaming purchases than their lower-earning counterparts.
  • People are less likely to make video game purchases the more time has elapsed since they graduated from their highest degree program.

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There’s some interesting findings here, some of which reinforce or challenge the Electronic Software Associations. The disparity between male and female game purchasers is significantly higher than the findings of ESA,  who found that men are the purchasers of video games about 63% of the time (compared to 37% for females). Likewise, the finding that 18-24 years are the ones most likely to make gaming purchases conflicts with finding that the average purchaser of video game content is 36 years old.

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This graph I find particularly interesting, because it exemplifies how video games as a medium is a relatively universally participated one. You see some minor dips, especially as income increases, but for the most part there isn’t a huge difference across income levels. As the report points out, some of this may also be tied to age and profession; as one earns more they are often more set in their careers, older, and perhaps have less time for video games.

I’d be interested to see survey myself and to get a little more information about sample size and general demographics of respondents, but this report does provide an interesting perspective that we may not get in other large scale data sets.  You can check out the entire report here: https://www.earnest.com/blog/the-demographics-of-video-gaming/

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Presentation on Capitalism and Video Games at San Diego State University

I’ll be presenting at the “Capitalism: Culture and the Individual” on April 14th at San Diego State University.  The presentation, entitled “Now You’re Playing With Power: Video Games and Capitalism”, will focus on how video games have contributed to a continued capitalist global ethic and an extension of empire. The presentation will also look into how video games may combat capitalism, and how video games may be the medium to implement counter-capitalist ideology. 

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The conference is free to the public and will feature presentations on an array of subjects across the theme of capitalism and culture. My presentation will be apart of a panel focusing on capitalism and entertainment, but the entire day should foster some great conversations. The conference will conclude with a keynote presentation by Dr. Timothy Taylor of UCLA.

You can find out more about the conference, as well as a detailed schedule, here: https://sociologygrads.wixsite.com/capitalismconference

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Splatoon 2 Players Fight Hate with LGBT Pride

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There’s been an interesting development going on in the Splatoon 2 community. Players can interact with their fellow peers via shared in-game pictures and messages. For anyone familiar with Mii-verse, these messages are more or less mii-verse posts in game (sans the actual miiverse). This is something the Splatoon has featured even in the original game, and it’s long been a forum for memes and jokes, with content being heavily monitored by Nintendo’s moderators.

Anyone playing Splatoon 2 may have noticed that a different trend has arisen: fans of the game are using in-game messages to drown out hate against the LGBT community. Presumably this arose out of backlash against anti-LGBT sentiments being shared in the community, but the amount of pro-messages have outnumbered the negatives ones significantly.  Some gamers have been skeptical about this movement, citing that the movement follows the same trend as in-game jokes among the community and that this pro-LBGT trend may be the latest in-game joke. While I hope it’s more genuine than that, it’s interesting to see a game community like Splatoon 2 become a battle ground for social issues.

Even with the limited means of communication that Splatoon 2 give players, it has shown to be a powerful tool in expressing social beliefs and ideas. Each gaming community has its own culture, and Splatoon 2’s is increasingly becoming one to watch. I

 

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Can the Nintendo Switch Create Physical Gaming Spaces?

I recently did a pilot study of physical gaming spaces and why individuals choose to attend gaming events. I’m currently looking to extend the pilot study to a fully realized research project, and will hopefully share it when it is complete, but an interesting phenomenon occurred during the course of my research: The Nintendo Switch was released.

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Released in early March, Nintendo’s new console handheld hybrid has been a hot topic in the gaming industry, but few are talking about what potential the console may hold for create physical gaming spaces. Simply put, physical gaming spaces are local gaming gathering, events, or meetings with the intent purpose of interacting together in a shared local environment. Examples of physical gaming spaces range anywhere from LAN Parties to competitive competitions.  Although handhelds have had wireless multiplayer for over a decade, those seeking a true console local multiplayer experience often had to go to great lengths to create physical gaming spaces around console gaming. With the Nintendo’s Switch’s ability to immediately transfer between Console and handheld, it has the unique ability to create authentic local multiplayer experiences anywhere, without the need to connect to a television or several handhelds.

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Anecdotally, we’ve seen new stories of  athletes turning to the Nintendo Switch to kill time during rain delays and long travels, pointing to the console early success in reaching new audiences with innovative ways to create physical gaming spaces anytime, anywhere. Such an occurrence is exciting for anyone who is passionate about local multiplayer, as a rise in people playing in physical gaming spaces may result in more developers designing games that take advantage of space and place.  Although games like the Jack Party Box and Towerfall Ascension have had success in the ever increasing niche local multiplayer market, the industry is progressive moving towards one that promotes online interaction in lieu of local multiplayer; the 2017 ESA Report on video game consumption and use  found that the amount of time gamers play online with others is significantly higher than the amount of time they play with others locally. The Switch is still freshly on the market, and console shortages have prevented many gamers from being able to dive into all that console has to offer, so we’ll have to see how the console develops in regards to physical gaming spaces once the console is more readily available. Nonetheless, it’s an exciting time for people who enjoy playing locally; the industry has seen its first big developer’s push since the launch of the Wii.

I hope to update the blog as my research continues, but I would love your opinion about the Switch and what it may offer to both local multiplayer and physical gaming spaces. Feel free to post a comment or message me with your opinions or questions.

 

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Book Review: Coming of Age in Second Life by Tom Boellstorff

I’m a few years late with this, but I recently had the chance to read Coming of Age In Second Life by Tom Boellstorff, an anthropological ethnography of the Massive Multiplayer Online World Second Life. I know this might be an odd book to review, given that it’s nearly 10 years old now and Second Life isn’t quite the juggernaut in the MMO scene that it once was, but the book provides valuable insight for social researcher looking to do research in online worlds.  I thought I’d share my opinion about the book so that others could check it out.

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First published in 2008, Coming of Age in Second Life is part proof of concept and part by- the-books ethnography of a digital world. With new virtual worlds being constructed each year, Tom Boellstorff set out to prove to the academic community that traditional methods of research could be applied to these rapidly changing, new worlds. Coming from an anthropology background and having done. There have been many ethnographies of online worlds, but Coming of Age may be one of the most groundbreaking and influential.

Boellstorff starts the book by discussing the background of Second Life  and painting what a typical day in the world looks like, before moving onto a discussion about the philosophy, ethics, and academic interest in researching such a community. Collecting data and living natively for over 2 years as his online avatar Tom Bukowski, Boellstorff explores various topics of inquiry within this rapidly changing online world. Using traditional anthropological methods and theories, Boellstorff tackles this virtual world with the same keen sense and methods as he would any other social field.  Boellstorff does not claim his research to be a definitive guide to MMOs or even Second Life, rather a dive into a very specific era of a constantly changing world.

The crux of the book comes in the forms of chapters dedicated to overarching themes that emerged during Boellstorff’s research: place and time, personhood, intimacy, community, and political economy. In each of these chapters Boellstorff explores more narrowed down sub-themes in discussions that include the anthropological and philosophical background for their importance,  and data as evidence for their existence within Second Life. This justification through data comes in various forms, including transcribed interviews with second life citizens,  summaries of pertinent events the author witnessed or heard of second hand, and screenshots that give the reader a visual understanding of what the author is expressing.  I mention this range of topics to say that the book offers a sort of survey about the world of Second Life during the author’s stay. While your typical ethnography will focus on one individual topic of interest, Boellstorff has the luxury of exploring a world that many of his respondents will have absolutely no experience with; such a luxury is almost impossible in the “real world”.

Throughout the book, Boellstorff is attempting to both prove that traditional methods work in digital worlds, but also argue that humans have always existed between real and virtual, with  online virtual worlds being newly enacted forms of  traditional culture creation, social interaction, and creativity.  By presenting his years of research with precision and thoroughly thought out discussion, Boellstorff’s argument is carefully explored and fought for.   The only draw back that I may mention in regards to the book, is that it is at time perhaps a little too academic. This of course is a concession the author must of had to make; either weigh too heavily on public appeal and be ignored by the academic community, or weigh too heavily on the academic side and prove a little dry to the general population. In the end, the book seeks what it sets out to do. For anyone seeking to conduct social research on video games or massive multiplayer online worlds, Coming of Age in Second Life proves to be a useful resource to have on your shelf. Boellstorff’s work exemplify what we students of the social sciences and lovers of interactive media should strive to. You’ll be hard pressed to find a deeper dive into an online world.

I hope this book review has proved worthwhile. I’ll try and recommend other useful books and resources as I come across them.

-Ian L

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2017 ESA Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry

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The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has published their annual report about the computer and video game industry. This yearly report is an invaluable asset for researcher looking for statistics and figures concerning video game usage and consumption, as the ESA is the foremost collectors of this type of data. Each year they’re kind enough to report their findings, so let’s take a look at what this year’s report found.

Who is playing

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More and more people are playing games, and the stereotype of video games being relegated to young boys is a thing of the past. The “average gamer” has seen an age decrease across both genders, with 2016’s report finding the average female was 44 and the average male gamer was 35. Nonetheless,  the demographics of the gaming community is shifting towards being an activity participated across all ages. Female gamers above the age of 18 make up significantly larger population of the gaming community than men under the age of 18. That may sound unimportant, but consider it in relation to the general cultural perception of video gaming be a teenage boy activity.

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Despite gains in the community, male gamers still make up the most frequent purchasers of video games. Considering that free-to-play titles are often a popular genre of games for females, this statistic may be slightly misleading as to who is actually playing games.

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It is now more likely to have a gamer in your household than it is not to. The percentage of households that have at least one person who plays 3 or more hours a week has seen a slight increase from 2015 (63%). With this percentage growing each year, more and more we are moving towards a culture in which playing video games is the norm.

Who Are Gamers Playing With?

We’ve established that gamers are playing, but who are they playing with? With an increase in the number of online enabled games and access to online multiplayer platforms increasingly becoming easier each year, it’s not unreasonable to assume that more people are playing together.

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The numbers suggest that people are connecting through games, with the majority of gamers believing gaming to be a way to connect with friends. This statistic falls in line with contemporary research on how gamers view multiplayer interaction within their lives. The amount of time spent online vs. playing in person has actually shrunk from 2015, with gamers playing half an hour more with individuals in person in 2016. With developers such as Nintendo investing considerable attention in local multiplayer, particularly with the newly released Switch, it will be interesting to see how this figure changes next year. All of this is to say that people are using gaming as a way to connect with those around them, including their family members and spouses.

parentsTo go along with those findings, the amount of parental approval of video games has stayed steady with a very slight decrease from 2015 (68%). Despite this decrease, the majority of parents are found to believe video games are a positive influence on their kids’ lives and nearly all parents control the games their kids play in some way.

Other Findings:

  • Games are big money: the video game industry is continuing to grow, with the industry growing to 30.4 Billion from 23.5 Billion in 2015.
  • Bang for your buck: most gamers believe video games to be a better value for their money than music, movies, and dvds combined.
  • Digital Games are on the rise: digital purchases now make up 74% of all sales, with an increase from 69% in 2015.
  • Video Games are good for America: Video games added more than 11 billion to the GDP of the US in 2016.

Some great information for social science researcher to use to analyze video games and gamers. I left out a good deal of findings, so I definitely recommend checking out the actual report from the ESA. All graphics and pictures were pulled directly from the ESA’s report.

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Google Releases Findings on What Teens Find Cool

How do you do, fellow Kids?

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Google today released  It’s Lit: A Guide to What Teens Think is Cool  a report of the brands, technology, and products teens think are cool. Of the topics covered in the report are what teens think are the coolest video games and video games brands. It’s rare that we see a huge company like Google conduct such forms of qualitative research (and share it), so I thought it would be worth looking at.

The first thing you’ll probably notice is the theme of the the whole report. It’s…grabbing?  From the name of the report “It’s Lit” to the usage of headlines like “Gen Z are the most aware generations in recent history”, it’s definitely trying to pander to a certain crowd. Likewise, its attempts at presenting the data seems like a shallow attempt to come off as cool itself; from the terminology being used to the overall design of the report. Google is clearly targeting a specific audience with this report and evaluating a reports presentation, focus, and scope is an important step in analyzing it’s validity and purpose. I can poke fun at how ironically uncool this presentation manner comes off for hours, but let’s move on and look at the actually findings:

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The report finds that the most popular video games  amongst teens are, surprise surprise, the most popular games. The part of this I do find interesting is the reports usage of  descriptions as to why teens like video games. “It’s no wonder most teen boys see video games as a cool escape from reality”. That’s an odd statement that seems to come out of no where, and I’m not completely sure if it’s something they polled for or if it’s something they’re just pulling out of no where.

The narrative of video games prevalence being in part due to its escapism aspects is certainly true, but studies have found that it’s often not the leading cause for why people choose video games. Granted they follow up with more options as to why people choose it, but even those options feel as if it’s interjection added in by the report.

Here are the final two findings regarding video games, and even they are not all that controversial. It’s not unreasonable that a younger generation finds X-Box as the “coolest” video game company, considering that Microsoft has done a considerable amount to appeal to the younger demographic and appear hip and cool. The second graphic of brands is…Odd. To think that teens are saying “oreo”, “doritios” and “chrome” are the coolest of brands sounds almost as if it was a made up as a joke. I’m not questioning their validity, but I do wonder if these answers were perhaps some what leaded.  Which brings us to their methods:

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It sounds like a solid piece of research, but I’d be interested to see what the actual poll looked like. I wonder if the poll was open ended or if it had specific answers for respondents to pick from. If the later was true, I think that would explain answers like “oreo” and “chrome” as appearing as the coolest brands.

In the end, it’s all a bit silly. This market research is attempting to label what is cool by the usage of products, as if they have some inherent value besides what we place upon them. It’s the ultimate capitalist research: we’re defining teens sense of “coolness” by products and things we can consume and buy. Any sort of philosophical or analytical thoughts of why things are “cool” are left to the background and almost completely left out of the findings.

Regardless, it’s interesting to see how a massive corporation like Google collect, interpret, and present data.

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