What’s Libertarian About Gamers?

A look at what there is to learn politically about this now-established subculture

As Reason's June issue attempts to show, video games can't really be classified as an odd little subculture in America anymore. They're as big a form of recreation and entertainment as anything available now, and after four decades, video games have proven they're here to stay.

But obviously, video game consumers have degrees of interest. Just as there's a difference between somebody who buys Miley Cyrus singles on iTunes versus somebody who shells out big bucks to attend her concerts, there's a difference between somebody who plays Candy Crush on a tablet every so often versus somebody who spends a weekend with friends slaying monsters in World of Warcraft.

So we decided to take a look at "gamers," people on the more devoted end of the player spectrum, to see if there were any political trends that were worthy of note. In our two most-recent Reason-Rupe polls, in December and April, we asked how frequently people played video games. Then we looked at the poll responses from those who identified as frequent gamers and compared them to the respondents who never played. Was there anything to learn? What should anybody attempting to court the "gamer vote" know?

Reason-Rupe PollReason-Rupe Poll

Who Plays?

From our Reason-Rupe polling, 57 percent play games either frequently, occasionally or rarely. We'll be focusing mostly on those who say they play frequently, an average of 16 percent. For those who still operate on the belief the gamers are mostly male, set the sexism aside. The gender split is nearly 50/50, though we did not determine whether women and men liked to play the same kinds of games. Those who believe gaming is a hobby for the young, you're not wrong, but it's not the whole story. While 47 percent of frequent gamers were under the age of 35, nearly one in five gamers were over the age of 55.

Gaming the Parties

Political operatives looking to explore gamers as a voting bloc should know that gamers are more likely to identify themselves as independent than non-gamers and also are less likely to identify as Republicans. Reason-Rupe PollReason-Rupe PollWhen independent gamers are pushed to identify leanings, they are more likely to lean leftward to the Democrats.

Mapping onto their partisanship, gamers are significantly less conservative and more liberal than those who never play video games. This can't be wholly accounted for by the fact that gamers trend younger. Even within age groups, gamers lean more liberal and less conservative than their non-gaming peers.

But while they may lean more liberal, that doesn't necessarily mean gamers are fans of a centrally planned government to deal with everybody's Reason-Rupe PollReason-Rupe Pollproblems. Gamers agree with non-gamers in supporting free market solutions over government intervention when possible, 52 to 43 percent. Gamers also believe (57 percent) that government is often an impediment in people's ability to succeed. And 54 percent disagree with President Barack Obama's views on the role of government.

Don't Tell Me How to Play

If there's any one trend to take away from a poll looking at gamers it's that gamers don't like to be told what to do with their lives. Again, they may describe themselves as liberal, but they do not like government Reason-Rupe PollReason-Rupe Pollpolicies that control individual life choices, like what products they can purchase or consume. Video games are all about making choices, right? That's one mentality that does carry over in real life (unlike the fear that games make people more violent). Our polls show that many government bans on products or activities like caffeinated energy drinks or online gambling are already disliked by Americans, regardless of gaming habits. But for gamers, this dislike of nanny-style regulation is enhanced—upgraded if you will. For every single poll question where we asked whether the government should allow people to own, consume, or use certain products or services that are currently a focus of debate, gamers are more likely to say yes than non-gamers. In only one question did gamers support a government ban, for 3D-printed guns. But even then, 42 percent of gamers still supported allowing people to print them, compared to 26 percent of non-gamers.

Probably the biggest gap was the gamer support for allowing use of bitcoin as a currency—55 percent for gamers; 30 percent for non-gamers. This example is particularly interesting because a majority of gamers and non-gamers alike knew very little or nothing at all about bitcoin. But non-gamers appear more likely to call for government regulations or a ban on a product they've never heard of than gamers.

Unsurprisingly, Gamers Love Tech Advancements

If Amazon begins using drones to deliver products someday, gamers think that's an awesome development, far more than non-gamers. The numbers are practically reversed. Gamers love the idea of drone deliveries, 54 to 32 percent. Drone deliveries make some non-gamers nervous. Only 39 percent saw them as a positive development.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Hyperion||

    he gender split is nearly 50/50, though we did not determine whether women and men liked to play the same kinds of games

    The answer to that, in general, is no. Guys typically like more hardcore type games, like first person shooters, that involve fighting with various types of weaponry and that have quests and bounty to loot. and advanced graphics.

    Women mostly like games like farmville. Of course, this is in general. There are women who like the aforementioned type of games, and guys who like farmville.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    first person shooters

    To be honest, I go bored of the FPS genre after Doom 2. The popularity of the genre is beyond me. I've always been more of a God-game/Simulator guy.

    And speaking of such, they're making an Alpha Centauri quasi-remake. Nwabudike Morgan is the alpha and omega of libertarian gaming.

    Human behavior is economic behavior. The particulars may vary, but competition for limited resources remains a constant. Need as well as greed have followed us to the stars, and the rewards of wealth still await those wise enough to recognize this deep thrumming of our common pulse. -- CEO Nwabudike Morgan
    "The Centauri Monopoly"
  • Hyperion||

    To be honest, I go bored of the FPS genre after Doom 2

    That's why you throw a story line, interesting characters, factions, questing, looting, exploring, etc. into the mix and call it an 'Action RPG'.

    I'm starting to enjoy Farcry 3 now that I have the game system and mechanics down enough that I don't get myself killed every 5 minutes. There are no save games, so it's pretty unforgiving.

    last night, I hid myself in some jungle beside of the road and ambushed 2 jeeps with 4 guys each. I had killed all of them except for one, and just as I had the guy in my sights, a damn lizard started chewing on my leg, so I had to turn my focus to getting him off of me. That gave the last guy standing time to kill me. So back to last check point...

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    call it an 'Action RPG'

    I played the shit out of the Elder Scrolls series, but it still doesn't answer my question about what is so appealing about FPS games. There are tons of gamers who will play nothing but CoD/MoH/CS over and over again. I just don't get it. I get bored of these glorified games of hide-and-seek after about an hour.

    To each his own, I guess. But what bugs the fuck out of me is that these games (which are pretty crappy in overall quality, you have to admit) get AAA budgets thrown at them to produce title after title of derivative, unoriginal crap but a game like Kerbal Space Program has been in alpha for four years.

  • Hyperion||

    what is so appealing about FPS games

    Because it's the closest thing to reality and it's all about the immersion into the game. When the Oculus or Sony's Morpheus are released, it will be taken to another level. It's all about immersion. You can't really get immersed into a 2D game with some non-reality perspective.

    Sometimes I will play Spider Solitaire or something like Plants vs. Zombies, but not when I'm in a mood for some serious gaming.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Let's not confused FP with FPS. Any genre, as you pointed out with ARPGs can have an FP perspective. An FPS single-player is a shooting gallery and multi-player is a game of hide-and-seek. However, there are plenty of FP adventure and role-playing games as well. I wouldn't classify Portal as an FPS, but it certainly was FP, no?

  • Hyperion||

    Well, in actuality, I'm talking about any game that is FP, regardless of genre. And a lot of action RPGs don't use guns at all, but melee weapons and bows/crossbows. Any game that if FP, no matter what the genre, is closer to reality. I will play 3rd person, but don't like any games that are side scrollers or that awful overhead isometric view.

  • prolefeed||

    I wouldn't classify Portal as an FPS, but it certainly was FP, no?

    The portal device functioned as a gun, though not primarily. There were several levels where you had to "kill" sentry devices. So, a modified, less-violent FPS, IMO.

  • robc||

    Because it's the closest thing to reality

    More so than KPS?

  • robc||

    s/KPS/KSP/

  • Hyperion||

    Isn't that first person?

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    I'd think an RTS like StarCraft would be the closest thing to reality.

    Soldiers are purchased with resources mined by drones, all characters are treated as expendable, when they die they don't respawn in a convenient location, and the game is 90% economics.

  • ||

    still doesn't answer my question about what is so appealing about FPS games

    I think you answered this question with your above post "To be honest, I go bored of the FPS genre after Doom 2."

    How old were you when Doom 2 came out?

    FPS is a young mans game or at least more so then other mechanics/game styles.

  • ||

    which are pretty crappy in overall quality, you have to admit

    err...no I don't

    BF4 and Call of Duty:Ghosts and Titan Fall are pretty awesome technical achievements. I don't play them because it is not the style of game i want to play...but to think the money is not on the screen with those games is delusional.

    unoriginal crap but a game like Kerbal Space Program has been in alpha for four years.

    You should look at the numbers of sales. Also you are viewing the market like some left wing nut job. You favorite bottled ice tea is not less available because Coke and Pepsi are so popular any more then Kerbal space program is less developed because of games like CoD. You need to go back and read Hayek and learn how markets work.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Hey, do us all a favor and go fuck yourself. Your insults were uncalled for, and to someone whose online identity isn't entirely based on being a contrarian twat, it's clear that I was having a discussion about taste. I know very well that game companies invest large budgets into FPS because they sell well.

    BF4 and Call of Duty:Ghosts and Titan Fall are pretty awesome technical achievements.

    Again, this just shows how poorly you understood my argument. I don't define quality as graphics and sounds...I define it as game design. That is what you actually do in the game. All you've shown is that you're a simpleton who is easily delighted by bells and whistles.

    Maybe next time, you'll actually have a fucking clue as to what the conversation is about before shitting all over the thread.

  • ||

    OK big guy...ok.

  • Vulgar Madman||

    Morgan was always my guy.

  • Hyperion||

    When independent gamers are pushed to identify leanings, they are more likely to lean leftward to the Democrats.

    It's a lot easier to sit around all day and game, when you don't have a job and aren't looking for one. Free gamez for all!

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Libertarians are gamers because they all have an adolescent mindset.

    See how easy it is to generalize?

  • Hyperion||

    Got you, didn't I? You just walked right into the trap and gave yourself away as a prog. Not that everyone here didn't already know that.

    Hey everyone, look, a proggie troll!

    It's so easy to make a fool out of you that it's almost not fun any longer.

  • Mock-star||

    97% PURITY TESTZ!1!!!eleventyone!

  • Sevo||

    ..."And 54 percent disagree with President Barack Obama's views on the role of government."...

    'Cause not enough free shit?

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    gamers don't like to be told what to do with their lives. That's pretty libertarian.


    That's not a gamer or libertaian impulse, it's a human thing, regardless of political preference. Hell, ask any Marxist and they'll be happy to tell you all about how their philosophy concerns itself with freedom to self-actualize free from constraint and so forth. The issue is that a) people tend to mix together things which inconvenience them (getting a job to pay the bills) with a lack of freedom, and b) regard their own freedom and comfort much more highly than that of others. For libertarians to succeed, they must convince others of the attractiveness or rightness of defending the rights of others even when it is inconvenient.

  • Hyperion||

    convince others of the attractiveness or rightness of defending the rights of others even when it is inconvenient

    But, our TEAM! The other team is icky! If we support the rights of that other team, that means supporting the Kochtopus, Teahadists, war on womenz, and raping mother Gaia to death ... on Mother's Day!

    /The proggies

  • R C Dean||

    gamers don't like to be told what to do with their lives. That's pretty libertarian.

    I disagree, actually. The worst psychopathic authoritarian a-holes don't like being told what to do with their lives.

    What makes a libertarian is extending this to not wanting to tell other people what to do with their lives.

  • ||

    This is correct. What makes a non-authoritarian is empathy; the ability to see how someone else would feel if told what to do, realizing they wouldn't like it, and understanding that.

  • blank||

    This is a childish rationale for non-authoritarianism. In the general case I am all for not telling other people what to do with their lives. This is because of the economic benefits accrued by myself from a system of individual autonomy as expressed by Austrian school economists. If I perceive that I will benefit from a more authoritarian approach in a specific situation then that is the path I will take.

  • Redmanfms||

    If I perceive that I will benefit from a more authoritarian approach in a specific situation then that is the path I will take.

    Then you aren't a libertarian, you're an Objectivist.

  • ||

    Then you are a utilitarian, and utilitarians are fucking scum devoid of any morals.

  • Redmanfms||

    Is he really a utilitarian? Utilitarianism is seated in making the greatest good for the greatest number (the kind of shit Tony is always spouting off), his position seems to be one of rational self-interest. Where authoritarianism will benefit him he supports it, where it won't he doesn't.

    Seems an Objectivist position.

  • blank||

    utilitarians are fucking scum

    So no empathy with utilitarians?

  • blank||

    Everyone has their breaking point concerning the principles they use to guide them in the world. Some are more flexible than others. Depending on your environment flexibility can be beneficial.

  • ||

    Then you are a utilitarian, and utilitarians are fucking scum devoid of any morals.

    I love you too Epi.

    You dirty anarchist.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    What is up with all the gaming threads recently?

  • Hyperion||

    Vast right wing conspiracy.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I think has to do with the collection of ink and dead trees that Nick mails to people on a monthly basis.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Oh, duh. Guess I could have figured that out by reading the first line.

    I have as much interest in gaming as I do in organized sports. To each his own, enjoy the discussion.

  • ||

    ink and dead trees that Nick mails to people

    You mean Matt.

    Nick left the magazine for the Website and reason TV a few years ago.

    I am sure Nick contributes to the magazine but Matt is god emperor of it now.

  • Sevo||

    Francisco d'Anconia|5.11.14 @ 11:08AM|#
    "What is up with all the gaming threads recently?"

    Outreach?

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    David Koch recently discovered Mario Cart and has directed all his cosmotarian shills to write gaming articles for his amusement.

  • Hyperion||

    I think part of the rise in the popularity is a result of the governments attempts to ban them. Anytime the government decides to ban some new vice, it seems to only make it more popular.

  • RishJoMo||

    Roop Roop said no way dude it cant happen like that.

    www.YourAnon.tk

  • BakedPenguin||

    Speaking of games, can anyone rec a good strategy game? I was scared to try Civ V because I found Civ IV very disappointing. Steam doesn't really have crap other than Galactic Civilizations II

  • Scott S.||

    I really like Civ V, though it does have some detractors. It is very, very different from Civ IV. I actually don't even remember how to play Civ IV anymore. (You need to get the expansions, though, if you want espionage and religion)

    After seeing some Let's Play videos that intrigued me, I ended up buying "Endless Legend." off Steam. Which is a fantasy-themed Civ-like game. Be warned, it's an early release in Alpha. The game is only half-finished, but I like what I'm seeing so far.

  • Scott S.||

    I should add that I am casually watching somebody playing Civ V multiplayer online while typing this.

  • Hyperion||

    Elemental: Fallen Enchantress.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Huh. Between that and Scott's game, I guess strategy / fantasy is becoming a thing.

  • Scott S.||

    Well, that's been true for quite a while. "Heroes of Might and Magic" has been around for ages.

  • ||

    Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis both are on steam.

    I have played neither but the strategy people who like Civ games seem to give these games good reviews.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Scott- thanks, that looks interesting, although I'm skittish enough about buying games in beta, let alone alpha.

    I didn't even think to look at YouTube. After checking out a vid, I think I'll get Eauropa Universalis IV.

  • GILMORE||

    RPGs are libertarian

    you dont just kill people = you also loot their boddies

  • GILMORE||

    fkn phone kybrd sux

  • Redmanfms||

    Most of the gamers I've met don't give two shits about others' rights.

    Not wanting to be fucked with in your own pursuit of happiness isn't even a libertarian impulse, every asshole is like that. Libertarians are mature enough to have their pursuits and leave others to their's.

    Watching/listening/reading gamers discuss gun rights in particular is pretty informative.

  • ||

    One thing that is interesting is that this poll tends to show that gaming news sites Polygon and Kotaku and their left wing bent does not reflect the attitudes of gamers.

    The comment sections also seem to be predominantly left leaning (note I said left not liberal). And it is interesting that Kotaku banned me from posting comments after I went against Net Neutrality.

  • cerihd638||

    Start working at home with Google. It’s a great work at home opportunity. Just work for few hours. I earn up to $500 a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. www.Pow6.com

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