November 19, 2007

Is video gaming becoming the next family bonding activity?

Contrary to the headline of the press release: “Majority of Kids Are Playing Video Games, But Not With Their Parents,” the data from the AOL Games/Associated Press poll released last Monday shows that there is a significant number of parents* who report spending at least an hour a week playing video games with their children.

Despite the stereotype of the video game obsessed teenager, the Entertainment Software Association pegs the average age for gamers at 33. According to our August 2006 survey, 35% of adults report playing video games online, and that number becomes even greater when one includes adults who play console games. These statistics indicates that the generation that grew up playing video games continues to play them well into adulthood. It also suggests that when adult gamers have children, they are not going to stop playing video games, rather, they will play video games with their kids. This is a trend observed in the AOL/AP study—the younger parents are much more likely to report playing video games with their children than older parents.

The gaming industry is anticipating, if not trying to hasten, this move towards intergenerational video game play. The creation of the Wii, a console that caters to a large range of video game playing skills, as well as the addition of Xbox live arcade, a service that allows people to download and play old school games like pac-man, shows that the gaming industry is turning its attention to courting many different generations of game players. If the game makers are able to make a game that captures the attention of the family friendly game market without alienating the more skillful “hard-core” players, they have the potential to surpass the Harry Potter books in terms of sales and cultural impact.

*43% say they don’t play video games with their kids at all, 30% spend less than an hour a week playing video games with their children, so ostensibly 27% spend more than an hour a week playing video games with their kids.