Survey: Video gamers more social and more socially conscious

June 5, 2014 | By Mike Snider

More people are playing video games and making them part of their social life and lifestyle.

Video games aren't what they used to be – and neither are gamers.

Over the last decade or so, the stereotypes that followed video games have been smashed like so many objectives in, well, a video game.

Video games were long thought to be the territory of loners, most likely teenage boys, holed up in the basement playing alone. Not anymore.

The average gamer is 31 years old and nearly as likely to be a girl or woman as a male (men make up 52% of players), according to the Entertainment Software Association.

And games have become a staple in the entertainment diet across all ages. Among Millennials, 73% have played games in the last 60 days, as have 62% of Generation Xers and 41% of Baby Boomers, finds a survey, out today, of 1,227 persons ages 13 to 64 in the USA, conducted in March.

Another finding: Video game players lead more social lives than non-gamers, are more educated, are more optimistic, more conventionally successful, are closer to their families and more socially conscious.

"Gaming has exploded in popularity over the past two decades. It's gone from an activity long dismissed as 'mindless' and 'antisocial' to a central part of pop culture," says historian Neil Howe, who, along with his deceased business partner, William Strauss, is widely credited with coining the term "millennials." The two wrote Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation and their firm LifeCourse completed a survey on gaming for online video site Twitch. The findings are in a report called The New Face of Gamers.

Most millennials (roughly defined as 18 to 33 years old) "consider themselves gamers," Howe says, but for many older people "there's still something a little abnormal about the word 'gaming.' "

Those who do play games appear to be more engaged in society, the survey finds. For instance, gamers are far more likely to consider friends important (57% vs. 35% non-gamers) with nearly three-fourths (72%) saying that they game with their friends. That social nature carries over to other activities in that they are less likely to watch TV alone (23% vs. 40%).

"Millennials are putting gaming firmly at the center of their entertainment preferences," Howe says, "but it is a new kind of gaming that is more social, interactive and engaging."

Other findings:

Social consciousness. More than three-fourths (76%) agreed with the importance of having a positive impact on society, far above the 55% mark of non-gamers. Most said they buy products from companies that support social causes (58% vs. 36%) and that they are more likely to feel better about companies that have ethical business practices (78% vs. 65%).

Optimism. Gamers express more confidence about themselves and their prospects. Six in 10 (61%) agree that they are "a natural leader," compared to only 35% of non-gamers. They consider themselves more creative (65% vs. 43%) and are more upbeat about their careers — 67% are "very positive" or "positive," compared to 42% of non-gamers.

Education. Gamers' optimism could flow from the fact that they are more educated, as they are more likely to be a college graduate (43% vs. 36%).

Employment. Another reason for optimism is that gamers are more likely to be employed full time (42% vs. 39%) and more likely to be working in the career that they want to be in (45% vs. 37%).

Family. Gamers are more likely to say that they have a good relationship with their parents (79% vs. 63%) and consider spending time with family a priority (82% vs. 68%).

Technology. Gamers are more likely to use tablets (61% vs. 29%), smartphones (72% vs 50%) and smart TVs (68% vs. 12%). And gamers are usually three times more likely to use devices at work, on vacation, at friend's homes, while commuting and at restaurants. Gamers use their smartphones more, too, for texting (91% vs. 83%), social media (82% vs. 58%) and watching video (76% vs. 41%).

The success of Twitch, which trails only Netflix, Google and Apple in online video traffic, epitomizes gamers' embrace of technology. More than 1 million are actively streaming video game-related content on the service.

"People aren't just watching other people play games, it's a social video experience where broadcasters and their audiences interact in real time via chat and audio about everything from games and pop culture to life in general," says Twitch CEO Emmett Shear. "We have always been aware that our community is full of positive-minded, socially conscious gamers, so it's great to have this statistics-based validation for that. It ultimately mirrors our belief that gamers are social, video is their language and Twitch is their platform."