On “Gamers” and 2012 Sales Demographics

A report from last week by the ESA (PDF here) showed that the average age of a ” gamer” went down from 37 to 30. The reason for this sudden change is a modification on the parameters of what counts as a “gamer”.  On this year’s survey, a person who plays a game in any electronic device – including a phone – for at least one hour a week falls under the category of “gamer”. People who play more than 10 hours a week are considered “serious gamers”.  While it’s great that the ESA is making the distinction between “gamer” and “serious gamer”, I think their use of the labels is a bit off-putting.

The term “gamer” has always been used to refer to people who play console or PC video games often and consistently, and “serious gamer” to refer to people who either spend most of the free time playing games or who play games professionally (and before you ask, yes, there are professional gaming leagues and game tournaments).  Individuals who played solitaire and words with friends were called either “casual gamers” (a term I never really liked) or just “people who play games”.

Just for the record, I never liked the term “hardcore gamer” either.

Anyway, at many times in recent years, I’ve found myself in this conversation:

“So you’re a gamer?”
“No, but I play Farmville.”

As a “gamer” who grew up on the original The Legend of Zelda (sometimes I would wake up at 5:00 a.m. instead of 6:00 a.m. on a school day to get an hour of play before school) and who lived through the entire university experience because of Final Fantasy, Dance Dance Revolution, and “the gaming community”, you’ll understand why I have some apprehension in calling my mother, whose whole gaming experience revolves around playing Solitaire in her computer in between rounds of theological research, a “gamer”. In fact, I would have a hard time calling myself – a person who plays stuff like Mass Effect and Final Fantasy XX-5 – a gamer because of the frequency with which I play these games (about once a week for about 2 hours).

To put this into perspective, think of golf. A person who plays golf occasionally can’t be called a “golfer”. They are “people who play golf”. Tiger Woods is a golfer. A person who takes pictures of food and of themselves making the “duckface” and put them up on Instagram is not a photographer. Paolo Boccarti is a photographer. Using Gimp doesn’t make someone a graphic artist, and having a blog does not make someone a webmaster. And so, if there are distinctions for virtually everything else – both at the professional vs amateur practice as well as in hobbies and sports, then I must ask – doesn’t it seem as a disservice – both to people who play games and to the study – to group my solitaire-playing mum in the same group of “gamers” as Daigo?

So what’s my proposed suggestion? Either keep the whole “casual gamer” / “gamer” / “hardcore gamer” system, or come up with a more accurate system of labels (and yes, I’ve been obsessed lately with labeling stuff) based on type of games played, time spent on “gaming”, and proficiency in “gaming”.

Maybe I’ll come up with a legit version of one of those “what kind of gamer are you?” quizzes some other time.


As a curious note, Luke Plankett’s coverage of this says that this is “bad news for those who took some sense of pride from seeing the average age be somewhere clearly in “adult” territory, rather than “should be adult but really isn’t”.”

In my book, anyone over the age of 25 is an adult whether they act like it or not.

I really liked this somewhat related piece:



About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on August 4, 2012, in Video Game Commentary and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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