Video Games

Survey Says What We Should All Know by Now: Gamers Aren't Antisocial Shut-ins


In "Civilization V," you can send in spies to foment a coup in Kiev. Why isn't the media all over this?
"Civilization V" screenshot

As Reason's month of focus on video games comes to a close (replaced with a month of analysis of the legitimization of another unfairly demonized product—marijuana), it's worth taking note of a new survey on the attitudes of gamers. We recently did our own analysis of some of the political attitudes of gamers based on our regular Reason-Rupe polling. Now social researcher Neil Howe and his consulting company have done a poll of their own. Howe is half of the team behind the theory of generational cycles and is partly responsible for coining terms like Generation X and millennials. (As an aside, have we named the generation after the millennials yet, now that they're school-aged? When do we start stereotyping them?)

Howe's company, LifeCourse Associates, was commissioned by Twitch TV for a survey about gaming habits and the attitudes of people who play them. Twitch is an online streaming platform for gamers, hosting thousands of folks televising their gameplay online (I'm partial to watching people play Civilization V there sometimes). Twitch is a manifestation of how technological and communication innovations have created a new social culture for gamers. People stream and watch each other play. They can communicate with each other and their viewers, organize online game gatherings, hold contests, and televise marathon fundraisers for charities. Twitch has gotten so big that YouTube is reportedly buying it for $1 billion.

Clearly looking at the socialization of gamers is an important business matter for Twitch. Howe's firm surveyed 1,000 people online and put out a report titled "The New Face of Gamers" (pdf). Their results emphasize the reality that gamers are not borderline-autistic shut-ins. According to the survey, gamers are more likely to be living with others (not alone), to say they have good relationships with their family, to be positive about their own futures, and even to have full-time jobs.

There's a lot to quibble with about the study's methodology. First of all, they classify anybody who has played a game in the last 60 days as a "gamer," which is a bit of a stretch. I doubt the television industry would classify somebody who has watched a single show in the last 60 days as a "viewer." When they note that gamers are more likely to be college-educated, they also note that gamers' parents are more likely to be college-educated as well. Having a parent with a college education is probably a pretty good predictor of whether a person will also attend college completely absent any sort of video game connection. College-educated parents are probably also more likely to have more disposable income to support gaming as a hobby, too.

But while the survey might be problematic in some ways and is seemingly intended for Twitch to position itself to potential advertisers as in important player in reaching the gaming audience, the survey is still a useful tool in trying to push past silly stereotypes about people who play games, to the extent that these stereotypes still exist. Larry O'Connor at the conservative Washington Free Beacon took note of the study and used it to discourage the blaming of video games in incidents of real world violence. He notes, "This is a golden opportunity for conservatives to show that they can stand with a younger demographic. Instead, in the effort to protect the Second Amendment we seem to be all too willing to let gamers be scapegoated as somehow being partially responsible for heinous, violent crimes."