September 17, 2018

5 facts about Americans and video games

Paul Kana, left, plays EA Sports’ FIFA against Abdirahim Mohamed in a video game tournament at a library; Philip Kana looks on. (Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Video games are a source of entertainment for many Americans – so much so that there’s even an unofficial holiday to celebrate them. Here are five findings about Americans and video games, compiled from Pew Research Center surveys:

1A majority of young men often or sometimes play video gamesOverall, 43% of U.S. adults say they often or sometimes play video games on a computer, TV, game console or portable device like a cellphone. But there are substantial differences by age and gender. For example, Americans younger than 50 are twice as likely as those ages 50 and older to say they play games on one of these devices (55% vs. 28%), according to a 2017 Center survey. And men are more likely than women to play. This is particularly the case among young people: 72% of men ages 18 to 29 play video games, compared with 49% of women in the same age range.

A separate survey conducted by the Center earlier this year shows a similar pattern exists when it comes to owning a game console. Around four-in-ten Americans overall (39%) say they own a dedicated video game console – a figure that is largely unchanged since the Center first asked this question in 2009. And while similar shares of men and women own a gaming console, young men are particularly likely to have one: Around two-thirds (68%) of men ages 18 to 29 own a console, compared with 46% of women in the same age range.

In a 2015 Center survey, a third of young men (33%) identified themselves as gamers, nearly four times the share of young women (9%) who said the same.

2Puzzle and strategy games are among the most popular types of video gamesPuzzle and strategy games are the most popular genres among those who often or sometimes play video games. Around six-in-ten of these adults play puzzle and strategy games (62% play each type), according to the 2017 survey. Meanwhile, 49% play adventure games, 42% play shooter games, 39% play role-playing games, 33% play team sport or racing games and 32% play simulation games. Women who often or sometimes play video games are more likely than men to play puzzle games (72% vs. 52%). This genre is also more popular among game players ages 65 and older than among those ages 18 to 29 (74% and 56% of whom, respectively, play puzzle games).

3Gaming is popular among teens – especially teenage boys. More than eight-in-ten teens (84%) say they have a game console at home or have access to one, and 90% say they play video games on a computer, game console or cellphone, according to a Center survey of people ages 13 to 17 conducted earlier this year. Substantial majorities of both boys and girls play video games and have access to a video game console, but gaming is nearly ubiquitous among teenage boys. An overwhelming 92% of teen boys have access to a game console, compared with 75% of girls. And 97% of teen boys play video games on some kind of device, compared with 83% of girls.

441% of teenage boys say they spend too much time playing video gamesTeens are divided on whether they spend too much or too little time playing video games. A quarter of teens (26%) believe they spend too much time playing video games, while a similar share (22%) feels they spend too little time doing so. And as with video game playing in general, these findings differ by gender. Four-in-ten boys ages 13 to 17 (41%) say they spend too much time playing video games, nearly four times the share of girls who say the same (11%). And a larger share of boys (65%) than girls (50%) have cut back on the amount of time they spend playing games. Three-in-ten girls believe they spend too little time playing games, a view shared by just 14% of boys.

5A majority of adults – especially seniors – believe video games are a contributing factor to gun violence. Six-in-ten adults say the amount of gun violence in video games contributes a great deal or a fair amount to gun violence in the country today, according to the Center’s 2017 survey. Among adults ages 65 and older, 82% say video game gun violence contributes a great deal or a fair amount to the country’s gun violence – nearly double the share of those ages 18 to 29 (42%).

Topics: Online Gaming, Teens and Technology, Teens and Youth, Internet Activities, Technology Adoption

  1. Photo of Andrew Perrin

    is a research analyst focusing on internet and technology at Pew Research Center.