ESA 2015 Essential Facts About The Computer & Video Game Industry

It’s that time of year again when the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) release their  yearly findings on the demographics and make up of the video game industry. The ESA is the foremost gatherer of this type of data and this yearly survey is the most in-depth of its kind. This is important stuff and extremely useful for anyone seeking data on video games and their communities.

Now you may be asking: “Who is this ESA and why should I believe the data these dweebs are spouting?” Well, 90s Bully child, who better to tell you who the ESA than the ESA themselves:

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) conducts business and consumer research, and provides analysis and advocacy on issues like global content protection, intellectual property, technology, e-commerce and the First Amendment in support of interactive software publishers. ESA owns and operates E3 and represents video game industry interests on federal and state levels.

Yeah, so they’re those people…Them.  A better description would be that they’re a organization that gathers pertinent information to better regulate content within the industry by partnering with a lot of the biggest names in the industry. In addition to the ESRB, the group that decides Manhunt is a more mature game than Pikmin (YOU’RE PLAYING WITH LIVES IN BOTH GAMES), they have programs that give scholarships to youths, a board that acknowledges achievements in the industry, and a group of advocates that promote taking action in support of video games. All in all, they’re a pretty cool organization that is making a positive influence on the video game industry.

Enough of that jibber-jaber, let’s get to the data!

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The average age of gamers has increased significantly from last year’s data, which found that the average age of a gamer was 31. What’s leading this change? Could be that mobile games are reaching a larger audience than in previous years.  Another thing to note is that percentage of female gamers has actually decreased this year; last year they made up 48% of the gaming population. This change could representative of the sample population, or it could reflect a change in certain marketing over the past year.

socialThe majority of gamers are social gamers. Gone are the days in which gaming was primarily done by yourself in a dingy basement that may or may not have mold on the ceiling; Now it’s done in the same basement, but with people playing with friends! That said, this makes sense: most major video games now have an online component to them. Only 4 of the top 20 best selling games last year didn’t have a major online component to them, and 3 of the 4 were aimed at children.what we playGames that connect people are on the rise and more than ever we are playing with people across the world. Online communities are now global networks with people working and playing together. You’re next best gaming partner could be a thousand miles away from you. However, I would be interested to know how the ESA defines a social game: Is Super Smash Brothers and social game because it features online play?

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The gaming landscape is still one that is incredibly diverse in terms of themes and age levels. There’s a tend to lump the majority of games in as “mature and violent”, but the majority of video games still are considered family friendly. 11 of the top 20 best selling games last year were rated E or E10+.

parentsThe relationship between gaming and family is an ever changing one. Parents are learning how to incorporate and monitor the usage of gaming in their children’s lives. The percentage of parents that monitor the games and hours their children play video games is 91%, up from 87% last year. The influence of video games on children is something we’re gradually getting a better understanding on, so it make sense that year after year parents are becoming more involved in their childrens gaming habits.digitalvs

Lastly, for the first time in the history of video games, digital sales seem to have surpassed physical copies. Keep in mind this is for the industry as a whole (which includes both mobile and PC games), but it’s still an important milestone for the industry. As we discussed, the trend towards digital games raises question about the future of video games preservation. The number of mobile games and digital only games will only increase in the coming years, so you may want to rethink your physical copy library you’ve been creating over the years.

All together it’s an interesting year for video game demographics. We’re advancing towards a more inclusive and diverse video game population, but we’re still taking strides. As we see, it’s not always a one way street towards equal demographics, as the numbers and ratios of gamers will flucate over time.

In the upcoming weeks I hope to use all of this research to best come up with a picture of the the average gamer and evaluate what insight we can pull from understanding the typical gamer.

***Please keep in mind that this data is representative of a survey population and does not neccessarly represent the entire population of gamers. While it is probably the best research and data we have on the subject, a population of 4000 households  is still just a survey population attempting to make statements for a population that is increasingly changing and growing.

Useful Links:

ESA 2015 Essential Facts

ESA 2014 Essentail Facts

ESA’s Website

Study Shows Link Between Excessive Gaming and Behavioral Issues

SHOCKING HEADLINE: A new study posted in  the Journal of Psychology of Popular Media Culture finds a correlation between playing games for an extended amount of time and behavioral issues in teenagers. KEEP THAT POKEMON AWAY FROM THEM TWEENS, OR YOU’RE GONNA GET TROUBLE!

The new study posted in  the Journal of Psychology of Popular Media Culture  evaluated the amount of time spent on video games per day and the behavior habits of teenage students in class. The Washington Post has a pretty good break down of the study in general, so check it out here. As you might expect, teens who played more than 2 hours a night (on average) exhibited more behavioral issues, such as hyperactivity, and were less interested in their academics. The sun is also hot, and Mario sometimes jump (SPOIIILLLEERRRR).  Furthermore, the study found that gamers who played solitary video games  showed less of these behavioral and academic problems than those who played competitive online games. However, teenagers who played online social games were less likely to exhibit social problems and were found to be more emotionally stable. PUT THAT ON THE BOX BLIZZARD!

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I apologize if I sound cynical about the first half of the study, but this form of study is one that we’ve seen several times in the past few years.  It’s correlation without causation. It’s easy to find a common thread in video games between respondents that are hyperactive and young because it’s an easy target. 10 years ago similar studies were done to say that internet use is leading to behavioral issues, 30 years ago it was TV corrupting our kids, and 60 years ago it was too much Radio leading kids astray (NPR led me to satanism).  It’s not to say that video game consumption isn’t an issue, but it’s a outlet for other isss. We have a habit of demonizing whatever media is popular among youths as corrupting, which in this era is video games.

That said, the study is one step in understanding how video games effect our lives, which is obviously something we like here on the blog. It may not be a drastic leap forward, but perhaps it will pave the way for future research evaluating how video games lead to specific social behaviors. A step is still a step, right? We’ll get there one day…

New Study Shows Benefits of Narrative in Video Games

Coming out of the University of Innsbruck  and Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg, we have some research that probably won’t set the world on fire, but is interesting nonetheless.  The study looks at the benefits of narration in video games on the players experience and satisfaction, in addition to the benefits towards theory of mind (We’ll talk about what that is a little later).  It’s a pretty jargon heavy and technically written piece of research, but it’s worth a read if you’re interested in how a narrative can change a player’s experience.

You may be saying: “Hey! That sounds pretty obvious you dolt!”. I would first ask you to not call me a dolt (You know how that makes me feel…) and secondly I would say it’s a little more complicated than it sounds. Essentially the researchers found that narrative games create immersion that allows for players to better develop a sense of understanding towards the thoughts and beliefs of others (via those of in-game characters), in addition to finding that narratives in game increases satisfaction in players. The finding towards theory of mind (which I terribly boiled down above)  are small, but beneficial. The uses for such benefits could be used in future practices with an example being in working with kids with social development issues.

Is that Mario or a playboy bunny…?

I told you it wouldn’t set the world on fire with fascination. Hey, not all research studies can be exciting pieces that reveal to you that all gamers have a slight sexual attraction to plumbers because of Super Mario Land 2**** (Specifically that game, for whatever reason)

**** Research is in the process. Please don’t steal my brilliant idea

Update – EFF: “Videogame Publishers: No Preserving Abandoned Games”

This week the Electronic Frontier Foundation updated followers on their on-going crusade to fight for the rights of gamers and communities looking to keep their favorite games and communities going after publishers shut down servers and means to access said games.

We brought up this battle awhile ago, at it seems that the EFF’s fight has only been met with stark resistance from the publishers, specifically the Entertainment Software Association. This blog like both the EFF and the ESA, as they’re both doing some great things on the front of video game struggles and research, so it’s  unfortunate that they haven’t found common ground.

Let’s go over their update:

The EFF recently petitioned for “legal protection to game enthusiasts, museums, and academics who preserve older video games and keep them playable”. Specifically, they’re seeking exemption in certain cases from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention provisions.  Their petition has been strongly opposed by the ESA, whom is arguing that any exception will send a statement to would be hackers that some forms of piracy is lawful. Damn pirates, always wanting to try do something ridiculous like play the games they bought online after they’ve been abandoned. What a bunch of jerkos!

This issue is an important one for gamers and researchers seeking to preserve gaming history. As we approach a time in which video games are slowly making their ways into museums and dedicated  channels, such a blanket stance against communities trying to keep certain games from falling into obscurity is counter-productive and harmful to the industry. As it’s been mentioned on this blog before, certain games only exist playable in some form because of the efforts of hackers and pirates; without, it’s unknown whether we’d still have these games.

This isn’t a closed case, and the EFF is still fighting for the rights of these groups. I’ll try and update this and the case goes on,