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Cheats for Marketers: Fresh Demographics on Teen and Adult Game Play & How Games Can Teach Kids to Be Good Citizens Amanda Lenhart Game Developers Conference March 2009 San Francisco, CA Road Map Teen game market Adult game market Genres Parents

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Cheats for Marketers:Fresh Demographics on Teen and Adult Game Play & How Games Can Teach Kids to Be Good CitizensAmanda LenhartGame Developers ConferenceMarch 2009San Francisco, CA

road map
Road Map
  • Teen game market
  • Adult game market
  • Genres
  • Parents
  • Gaming as a social experience, in-game and outside of the game
  • How games may teach teens to be good citizens
  • Takeaways
  • RDD national telephone survey
  • 1,102 youth ages 12-17 and a parent in their home
  • Margin of error +/- 3 percentage points
  • Survey conducted November 1, 2007 – February 5, 2008
  • Research partnership with Mills College and the MacArthur Foundation

Your Teen Market is Huge.

  • 97% of teens say they have played video games
  • 50% played a game “yesterday.”
  • 86% play on consoles.
  • 73% play on computers.
  • 60% play on portable devices.
  • 48% play on a cell phone.

Creative Commons License, Flickr user fille_de_photo

the youth market
The Youth Market
  • 99% of boys, 94% of girls
  • Boys play more often and for longer duration
    • 39% of boys play daily; 22% of girls do
    • 34% of boys play 2+ hours a day; 18% of girls do
  • Younger teens play more frequently than older
    • 54% of 12-14 year-olds play on any given day
    • 46% of 15-17 year-olds
  • Teen broadband users play more frequently
    • 28% of bbd users played “yesterday”
    • 20% of dial up users did so
and what about adults
And what about adults?
  • 53% of adults play video games
  • 81% of 18-29 year olds play video games
  • 60% of 30 to 49 year olds play
  • 40% of 50 to 64 year olds play games
  • 23% of those 65 and older play video games
  • Overall, computers are the most popular form of gaming hardware among adults
  • However, like teens, 18 to 29 year olds are more likely to game on consoles.
your best customer the daily gamer
Your Best Customer? The Daily Gamer
  • 31% of teens play daily
  • More boys than girls (65% boys; 35% girls)
  • More younger teens (57% 12-14; 43% 15-17)
  • More likely to use portable gaming devices…
  • …But just as likely as everyone else to use computer, console or cell phone
  • Daily gamers more likely to play with others online (20% vs. 12%)
  • Daily gamers are more likely to play games as a part of a guild or group (50% vs. 38%)
  • Just as likely to spend time f2f and communicating with friends
teens play a wide variety of games
Teens play a wide variety of games
  • 80% of teens play five or more different game genres, and 40% play eight or more types of games.
  • Girls play an average of 6 different game genres; boys average 8 different types.

Used under creative commons via flickr. Photo taken by cdammen.

game genres
Game Genres

We asked about 14 different game genres

  • 74% play racing games (NASCAR, Mario Kart)
  • 72% play puzzle games (Tetris, Solitaire, Bejeweled)
  • 68% play sports games (Madden, FiFA, Tony Hawk)
  • 67% play action games (GTA, Devil May Cry, Ratchet & Clank)
  • 66% play adventure games (Legend of Zelda, Tomb Raider)
  • 61% play rhythm games (Guitar Hero, DDR)
  • 59% play strategy games (Civilization, StarCraft)
  • 49% play simulations (The Sims, Rollercoaster Tycoon)
  • More….
game genres 2
Game Genres (2)
  • 49% play fighting games (Super Smash Bros, Tekken, Mortal Kombat)
  • 47% play first person shooters (Halo, Counter-Strike, Half-Life)
  • 36% play role playing games (Final Fantasy, Knights of the Old Republic)
  • 32% play survival horror games (Resident Evil, Silent Hill)
  • 21% play MMOGs
  • 10% use virtual worlds
mmogs and virtual worlds
MMOGs and Virtual Worlds
  • 20% of teens use MMOGs
    • 30% of boys have played them; 11% of girls
  • 10% of teens use virtual worlds
    • Boys just as likely as girls
    • Younger teens more likely than older teens: 13% of 12-14 year olds; 8% of 15-17 year olds.
  • Daily gamers more likely to play MMOGs and in Virtual worlds

Image courtesy of rosefirerising via flickr under creative commons

games genre gender
Games, Genre & Gender
  • Boys play a greater number of genres of games
    • Boys average 8 genres, girls 6 genres
    • Girls top 5 genres: Puzzle, Racing, Rhythm, Adventure, Sports/Strategy
    • Boys top 5 genres: Action, Sports, Racing, Adventure, FPS
    • Genres with equal levels of popularity between boys and girls: Racing games, Rhythm games, Simulations and Virtual worlds.
  • Daily gamers play a similar range of genres as boys.
cheats hacks and mods
Cheats, Hacks and Mods
  • 37% of teen gamers use cheats or game hacks “sometimes” or “often” when playing
    • 50% of gaming boys use cheats
    • 23% of gaming girls use cheats
    • Console gamers, daily gamers more likely to use cheats or hacks.
  • 28% of teen gamers say they have used mods to change a game they are playing
parents gatekeepers
Parents: Gatekeepers
  • What are parents & policy people worried about?
    • Is it harmful?
    • Is it helpful?
    • Am I doing the right thing for my kid/kids in general?
  • On one hand, they care enough about these issues to tell us that they monitor and are involved in their child’s game play
  • But on the other hand, they don’t think gaming has much of an effect on their children.
parental monitoring of game play varies
Parental monitoring of game play varies.
  • 55% of parents say they “always” check a game’s rating before letting their kids play it.
  • Parents are more likely to monitor game play for boys and younger children.
  • Parental monitoring does not reduce M/AO rated game play or witnessing of anti-social behavior in games.

Creative Commons License, Flickr user Reggie fun.

parental monitoring of game playing varies 2
Parental monitoring of game playing varies (2)
  • 90% of parents say they always or sometimes know what games their children play.
  • 72% say they always or sometimes check the ratings before their children are allowed to play a game.
  • 46% of parents say they always or sometimes stop their kids from playing a game.
  • 31% of parents say they always or sometimes play games with their children.
the industry rating system doesn t always work
The industry rating system doesn’t always work
  • 32% of gaming teens report that at least one of their three favorite games is rated Mature or Adults Only.
  • 79% of M- and AO-rated game players are boys, and 21% are girls.
  • 12- to 14-year-olds are equally as likely to play M- or AO-rated games as their 15- to 17-year-old counterparts.
parental views on the impact of games
Parental views on the impact of games
  • 62% of parents of gamers say video games have no effect on their child one way or the other.
  • 19% of parents of gamers say video games have a positive influence on their child.
  • 13% of parents of gamers say video games have a negative influence on their child.
  • 5% of parents of gamers say gaming has some negative influence/some positive influence, but it depends on the game.
teens encounter both pro social and anti social behavior while gaming
Teens encounter both pro-social and anti-social behavior while gaming
  • 78% of teens who play games report they frequently or sometimes see other players being kind and helpful to those who are gaming
  • 63% report seeing or hearing “people being mean and overly aggressive while playing”
  • 49% report seeing or hearing “people being hateful, racist, or sexist” while playing


  • Three quarters of teens who see uncivil behavior regularly see others respond.

Teen gaming is social.

  • 76% play games with others at least some of the time.
  • 65% play with other people in the room with them.
  • 27% play with others through the Internet.
  • 82% play games alone.

Creative Commons License, Flickr user

games are social 2
Games are social (2)
  • 59% of games play in multiple ways
    • 42% most often play with friends in person
    • 15% most often play with friends online
    • 42% most often play alone
  • Dial up users less likely to play with friends online (6% vs. 19% of bbd users)
games are social 3
Games are social (3)
  • 47% of online gamers play mostly with people they know from their community & offline friends
  • 27% of online gamers only play with people they met online
  • 23% of online gamers play with a mix of people they met online and people they met offline
  • Online gamers are more likely to play in groups – 43% game in a group or guild
  • Girls are more likely to play exclusively with people they know from their offline lives.
  • MMOG players much more likely to play with others they met online, and play in groups.
play around the game
Play Around the Game
  • 36% of teen gamers read game-related sites, reviews and discussion boards
  • 12% of teens gamers contribute to game related sites with reviews, walk-throughs, comments.
  • Boys and younger teens more likely to visit game-related sites
  • Online gamers and MMOG players more likely to visit game-related sites.

How Games Might Make Kids Better Citizens

(or, another potential selling point for skeptical parents and policy makers)

civics what is it why is it important
Civics – What is it & Why is it Important?

The qualifications of self-governance are not innate. They are the result of habit and long training.

-- Thomas Jefferson

civics why is this important
Civics – Why is this important?

Many students lack basic civic knowledge…

  • 50% could not identify the correct function of the Supreme Court
  • 33% could not identify either of California’s U.S. Senators from among a list of options (Kahne et al)

And among adults…

  • 38% of adults could name the three branches of government
  • 59% could name the three Stooges
what works
What works?
  • Instruction in Government, History, Econ…
  • Discussions of Current Events
  • Service Learning
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Student Voice in Schools and Classrooms
  • Simulations
  • 36% reported never participating in a role-play or simulation while in high school
civic gaming experiences
Civic Gaming Experiences

Playing games where you:

  • Help or guide other players
  • Think about moral ethical issues
  • Learn about a problem in society
  • Learn about social issues
  • Help make decisions about how a community, city or nation should be run
  • Organize or manage game groups or guilds
civilization iv
Civilization IV

Image courtesy of graye via flickr under creative commons

civic gaming experiences do relate to civic engagement
Civic gaming experiences do relate to civic engagement
  • The overall frequency of game play is not related to civic and social isolation.
  • But having frequent civic gaming experiences is related to greater levels of civic engagement.

Photo by Thomas Hawk, via flickr, used under creative commons


More civic gaming experiences = more civic engagement.

* Indicates statistically significant difference when compared with the percent of teens with the fewest civic gaming experiences.


Social game play correlates with civic engagement.

  • Teens who play games with others in the room exhibit more civic participation. They are more likely to:
      • Go online to get information about politics
      • Raise money for charity
      • Be committed to civic participation
      • Try to persuade others how to vote in an election

Creative Commons License, Flickr user sean dreillinger


Social interaction related to games increases engagement.

Game players who post to gaming websites or discussion boards are more likely to report they:

  • Are committed to civic participation
  • Go online to get information about politics or current events
  • Have raised money for charity
  • Stay informed about current events
  • Are interested in politics
  • Have tried to persuade others how to vote in an election
  • Have attended a march or protest.
civic gaming experiences more equitably distributed
Civic Gaming Experiences More Equitably Distributed
  • Unlike civic experiences in classrooms, which are more likely to be experienced by white, affluent teens…
  • …civic gaming experiences are equally distributed among different groups – race/ethnicity, SES, location
    • Except gender – girls are less likely to have civic gaming experiences than boys, even controlling for their lower frequency of game play.
  • 34% of teens have played a video/computer/console game for school or a classroom assignment
ideas for marketers
Ideas for Marketers
  • Your market is huge & both girls and boys play games
  • But you have to get through parents to reach many teens
  • Parents:
    • Worry about games, but don’t do much about it
    • Play games themselves, and sometimes play with their children
    • Pay lip service to ratings but don’t necessarily restrict game play based on ratings (and some times they can’t)
  • Plenty of games have civic or pro-social opportunities embedded in the game play (worth emphasizing)
  • Games are social experiences for teens - not isolating
  • Games as engines of creativity - machinima, modding
amanda lenhart pew internet american life project alenhart@pewinternet org http www pewinternet org
Amanda Lenhart

Pew Internet & American Life Project

Full Report @ Civics White Paper @