45% Of Americans Above Age 50 Play Video Games, And Feel Neglected By Industry
A new study by AARP reveals that 45% of Americans aged 50 or older play video games at least once per month, yet are feeling neglected by the industry.
Those polled say gaming is 'beneficial' to their lives - helping them to have fun and relax, while staying mentally sharp. Older gamers invest an average of 12 hours per week and $49 within a 6-month time frame on gaming - which could lead to $2.5 billion in biannual spending on the habit, which includes in-game purchases, virtual items, accessories (headsets, controllers, etc.) and the gaming consoles themselves.
Of the 45% above 50 who say they game, 45% of that group says they game daily - with women leading men by 52% vs. 37%.
Older adults' interest in gaming grew noticeably in 2016 and spiked during the COVID pandemic. Today, interest remains fairly consistent; however, about one in three of adults in their 50s (30%), women (30%), and Black adults (37%) say they play more now than they did two years ago. The average number of hours played across devices per week has increased 40% since 2019, up from an 8.5 to 12 hours played per week, not necessarily more frequently but for longer periods of time.
Who Plays With Whom
Solo play is most popular with 81% of those surveyed playing alone. But many remain connected: two-thirds (68%) communicate with other players through in-game chats, texts, app messaging, or by phone.
When they do play with others, 50-plus gamers’ most common play companions are children or grandchildren (20%). Other companions include adult family members (14%), in person with friends (12%), random people online (10%), siblings (5%), parents (3%), and colleagues (2%). -AARP
When it comes to which system is most popular, older gamers are using old and new consoles, however mobile gaming continues to dominate - with the #1 gaming device for those polled being the smartphone, which 84% of those polled said was their gaming device of choice.
According to AARP: "Our research shows, however, that almost 70% do not feel like the games are made with them in mind," said director of community and gaming, Maura White, in a statement to Axios, adding that more than half of those polled say they don't feel that they're represented in games, nor marketing, and that many games are too complicated.
"They would like the video gaming industry to create games and features designed to onboard easily, play consistently, and stay challenged," says White.
More via AARP:
Why They’re Playing
Those 50-plus engage in gaming for a range of reasons, although most involve fun, mental fitness, and well-being. The top six reasons are:
- Have fun, 86%
- Relax, 79%
- Stay mentally sharp, 78%
- To be challenged/solve problems, 74%
- Reduce stress, 71%
- Pass the time, 70%
How Devoted Are Older Gamers?
The study broke down gamers 50-plus into five segments ranging from those less passionate about gaming to those most passionate. The groups were given identities based on why they play, how often, and what they enjoy most — Dabblers, Mainstreamers, Indulgers, Enthusiasts, and Immersives.
This group represents 15% of 50-plus gamers. They are least passionate about gaming and play infrequently on their PCs or phones to pass the time or relieve boredom. Even though they enjoy puzzle, card, and tile games, they have no desire to play more often.
This is the largest group of 50-plus gamers, representing 35%. Mainstreamers have the highest concentration of mobile-only gamers. They may play every day, but they don’t feel very passionate about gaming. They’re in it more for the enjoyment, challenge, and mental stimulation. Wordle is very popular with this group.
This group plays daily on mobile phones and tablets for enjoyment and mental stimulation. They may have a sense of guilt about too much play time, but many find throwing in some casino games into their puzzle, card, and tile games, helps to reduce stress. This group represents 23% of 50-plus gamers.
These folks, representing 19% of older gamers, are passionate about gaming and like to become engrossed in energetic and active games. Action, adventure, and fantasy or role-playing games (RPG) help fill their evenings. This group looks for strong storytelling and compelling gameplay.
At only 7% of 50-plus gamers, this group is the smallest segment size but most passionate about gaming. Immersives identify as gamers. They are at the forefront of gaming trends and find social interaction integral to their choices of genres like fantasy and make-believe. They’re the only segment where a console, rather than a smartphone, is their top choice of gaming device.
Ease of Play Matters
Ease of play is the most popular feature among all five groups. In order, this is a key priority for Enthusiasts (57%), Mainstreamers (55%), Indulgers (45%), Immersives (41%) and Dabblers (37%). Other features include opportunity to improve over time, scaling of difficulty, set level of difficulty, variety of play and competitive ranks or tiers.
Older Gamers See Meaningful Play as Beneficial
While players of all ages enjoy gaming for the relief from stress and anxiety, those 50-plus feel gaming is beneficial as they get older, with three in four (77%) seeing play, such as gaming, as an important aspect of healthy aging for them. As for what motivates this group, passing the time still leads the way (54%), followed by mental acuity (39%), pleasure (46%), emotion (23%), immersion (13%), social connection (11%), challenge (10%), and self-improvement (9%).
When it comes to challenge, respondents like games that build in intensity over time and require competitive skills. Ease of playing ranked high (49%), while other preferred features include an opportunity to improve over time (35%), variety of play (21%), competitive ranks or tiers (18%), ongoing storylines or narratives (12%), and social aspect of gaming (10%).
However, 50-plus gamers see ads as a nuisance; for this age group and others, ads impact the enjoyment of the game. Among the other major frustrations: having to watch ads to make progress or make a purchase to continue, and the number and type of notifications in the game.
Games Designed Without Older Gamers in Mind
Seven in 10 (69%) older gamers feel that games are not designed with them in mind. Another 66% said video games are designed with no thought to players 50-plus. Many said the games can at times be too complicated to understand and others noted they need tutorials to play effectively. From not seeing themselves reflected in game marketing (69%) or within the games themselves (64%), older players feel like an afterthought to the gaming industry.