Parenthood and gaming – a match made in heaven?
Being a dad has its ups and its downs. Not getting enough sleep was probably one of the tougher parts as a parent with two toddlers, but in retrospect that was but a fleeting moment. Thinking back to that part of my life, a Swedish quote I once heard came to mind. Translated into English it would go something like this: “All those days that came and went – how was I to know they were life?” But I guess you could also turn it around – things happen while you are busy living? But I’m getting side tracked – back to the story: As soon as the kids got just a little bit older, a brand-new part of life began: The re-birth of my gaming life.
Let me explain. During my own teenage years, which took place in the 80's, video gaming was really starting to take off. I bought my first computer, a Commodore C64, and even though I told my parents the main purpose was to learn how to code and use it for all kinds of worthwhile chores, it did not take long until I had amassed a bunch of cassette tapes loaded with video games along with a joy stick! My computer had turned into a game console, and gaming had become an important and natural part of my life!
Later, as I got a more conventional PC, I also purchased a steering wheel controller in order to make the experience playing race-car games even more immersive.
For me, as well as maybe for many others, getting married meant my priorities shifted a bit. My gaming habits had to move down a bit on the priority agenda. But as I started saying before, it was a temporary glitch only. When the kids started becoming interested in video gaming themselves, my own gaming started anew. While I personally continued to prioritize my PC gaming experience, both of my millennial daughters went through an array of gaming devices; Tamagotchi, Nintendo DS & 3DS, Sony Ericsson telephones with mobile games, and later iPods, iPhones and iPads. And yes, you guessed it, they also played a lot of SIMS on the PC too!
The reason I bring all this up is because I recently had the privilege to work on a gaming study where we, amongst other things, investigated how consumers relate to video gaming today, what devices they use, and how important they think it is in their lives.
In the study, we compared the level of importance these users assigned to different types of media. It turned out that music came out on top with 57 percent of listeners saying it is very important, 49 percent of TV and video watchers said watching TV/video is very important while only 39 percent of gamers said the same for gaming.
My own life stage related changes in gaming habits, turned out to be equally visible amongst the studied consumers in our research. Gaming is today bigger than ever, driven by the growth of mobile gaming, and in fact as much as 26 percent of all the hours spent on any kind of media consumption is now made up of gaming. Having said that, our research also clearly hints to teenagers not being as invested in gaming as they once were. They still play a lot, but just don't think games are as important!
Our research instead points out those who have entered the "married with kids" life stage as those who feel gaming has the highest importance. The individuals in this age group began their gaming journey before the advent of smartphone games. For them, video gaming took place on the PC or on a dedicated game console, and the immersive gaming that took place there was an activity they assigned a high importance to. A lot of the habits and attitudes amongst these individuals remain also today, even though they are now older, while the younger generations have a much more scattered view of video gaming: for them, gaming is also something that might be done on the bus going to school, in-between classes to kill time or to simply socialize with your friends. As a result, the overall importance has dropped.
Looking back to my own teenage years, most of my gaming friends were also teenage males. One measly generation later, my own millennial daughters were both part of the evolution turning video gaming increasingly mainstream. While 88 percent of 15 to 24-year-old males play video games at least weekly, a vast majority (68 percent) of women in the same age bracket also do the same! In my own age group (45–59-year-olds) the difference between the genders is more or less negligible with roughly half of men and women playing video games at least once a week.
Today my daughters, who are now both 20+ years old, and I play PS4 games together more or less every week, with the occasional mobile game thrown into the mix. Far be it for me to take credit for making the gaming world a more gender equal place, but it does feel good to know that it happened while my daughters and I were playing!