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So, a couple of months ago the lovely @SteffanPowell went on @PeterCrouchPod to talk about #PressXToContinue and mentioned the stat that the average age of a UK gamer is about 40.
Last weekend, @BBCMoreOrLess tried to debunk it.
Here's how they introduced the topic:
"Surely, while there are plenty of middle-aged Xbox or PlayStation fans, the typical gamer is a child, a teenager, or a twenty-something."
This, of course, is the stereotype that prompts people like Steffan (and me!) to bring out that stat.
So, the stat (which actually puts the average age at 43) comes from @uk_ie, who got it from Nesta research by @hasanbakhshi and Karol Jan Borowiecki, which they based on data from the UK government's Taking Part survey of 10,000 adults aged 16+.
The More or Less researcher introduced three caveats.
Two are related to age. One is that the data set for Taking Part skews older anyway (the largest age group was 45-64).
Presumably because older people have more free time in which to answer surveys about their free time.
The other age-related caveat is that, as UKIE and the researchers pointed out, the data excludes under 16s.
Using an estimate that 80% of 6-15s play, and adjusting for the overrepresentation of older people, More or Less found a new estimated average age of... 35.
Which... is still older than the stereotypical "child, teenager, or twenty-something" referenced at the top of the programme!
Like, that gives me four more years!
I'll also note here that when asked who was the "biggest gamer" in his household, presenter @TimHarford said:
"Since my wife is probably listening to this and I don't want to own up, I will say my two youngest children."
Which is clearly supposed to be a joke, but does speak to the kind of shame that might make older people reluctant to admit to spending their free time playing games! (Or even to try them!)
(And gosh, with attitudes like that it's no wonder we keep bringing up these statistics.)
Anyway, the third caveat is the biggy.
You guessed it, it's the "not a real gamer" argument.
The Taking Part survey asked if, in their free time, people "play video/computer games on a digital device like a console, a computer, a tablet or a mobile phone".
The researcher points out that this would include things like "playing Go on a website", and "playing online poker, Candy Crush, or Words with Friends".
"Right, so not just Call of Duty," says the presenter.
Obviously, I have THOUGHTS.
As I've said before, the so-called distinction between "real" ("hardcore") games and "casual" games like Candy Crush is meaningless and, since it is often used to deny women the label "gamer", sexist.
For more, please watch this talk from FIVE years ago:
TLDR: it is impossible to agree upon a definition by which you can exclude all sorts of games as not "real" games, and people who try to do so often have questionable motivations.
Games are games.
More or Less seems to think a "gamer" should only mean someone who plays console games, to which I have my own three counters:
1) Consoles are expensive. (So that's kind of classist!)
2) Mobile phones and tablets are very powerful now! (Why suggest that they don't count?)
3) Many of the most popular games around are playable on computers, consoles, AND mobile devices: Fortnite, Among Us, The Sims...
AND Call of Duty!
I will also point out that since the data is not broken down into the kinds of games played, the implication that the average age is only as high as it is because of games like Words with Friends is totally spurious.
You'd think More or Less would know better.
BUT here, I think, is the question I want to end with:
Why do we care so much about the average age of a gamer anyway, that those of us who cover video games want to insist that it's higher and those who look down on them want to push it lower?
Do we value the opinions of older people more than younger ones? Are topics only worth discussing once it's proven that they are of interest to those over the age of 40? And if you do care more about older people, why dismiss the 20% of those aged 45-64 who do play games?
I don't want to be one of those people who says that video games are important because of how much money they make.
But whatever the percentages, however they're divided across age groups, they are important to millions of people in the UK.
And I don't think video games are more important than other activities. But in the 25-44 age group (mine!), the percentage who play games (37.7%) isn't far off gardening (43.1%) or going to the theatre (41.9%) or galleries (40.9%).
And yet the likes of Radio 4, despite a stated desire to attract a younger audience, continues to overvalue coverage of gardening, theatre, and the kind of art you find in galleries, and undervalue something that is just as important to quite a lot of people.
I'm working on it! But this kind of thing really isn't helping.
Anyway, if you want to hear some of the reasons why games are important to people of all ages, do check out my documentary Playing with the Dead and tell Radio 4 you'd like to hear more:
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