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How does America play video games? A new study highlights our habits

(BPT) – Did you grow up playing video games and still enjoy them today? If that sounds like you, you’re in good company. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) just released its annual “Essential Facts About the U.S. Video Game Industry” report, shining a light on how people continue to enjoy video games, from childhood to adolescence and into adulthood.

“Video games have been a fixture in American life and culture for generations,” said Stanley Pierre-Louis, President and CEO of the ESA. “Players of all ages, backgrounds and abilities are embracing the positivity that video games bring to their lives. While the games we play and how we play them evolves over time, what remains consistent is how video games enhance our lives in ways that inspire us and bring us closer together.”

That’s the idea behind the study — to take the pulse on how Americans interact with video games, highlighting the role video games play in the fabric of American life. The ESA looks at the demographics of the players, their behaviors, and even parental interactions with their children’s game play. Wondering where you stack up? Here are some findings from the 2024 study:

190 million people ages 5-90 play video games at least one hour a week in the U.S. That’s roughly 61% of our total population. Players are close to evenly split between men (53%) and women (46%). Broken down by generation:

  • 79% of Gen Alpha (ages 5-10) play video games
  • 76% of Gen Z
  • 65% of Millennials
  • 53% of Gen X
  • 46% of Boomers
  • 30% of Silent Gen (ages 78-90)

It won’t surprise you to learn that most people (68%) play video games to pass the time, relax or have fun. But it’s not only about fun. A significant number, almost 40%, use video games to keep their mind sharp – and that number jumps to 61% for Boomers and the Silent Generation. Most players (77%) believe video games provide mental stimulation and can help improve cognitive skills (73%).

Most people agree video games can also increase:

  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Communication

And about that nostalgia factor, people who grew up playing video games and still do today? It turns out, nostalgia plays a large role in gameplay. People in the study spoke fondly of their memories of playing games with their family and friends growing up, loved discovering the new worlds in the games, and especially love seeing their children enjoying the games they themselves played as children. Of the parents who play video games, 83% play with their children.

The study delved even deeper into the emotional benefits people derive from playing video games, including:

Escape and de-stress

Gaming allows players to disconnect from the world and distract from anything that is causing them stress. Exploring worlds, characters and stories, and engaging in these worlds, allows players to destress and help manage their mental health. Many use gaming as an outlet for when they’re feeling down.

Bonding with children

Games foster skills such as creativity, problem solving and emotion management in both young and teenage children. Parents utilize time playing with their children to communicate about their lives, and many find that it is easier to communicate about difficult or sensitive subjects with their children while they’re playing a video game with them. Game play helps parents better understand their children, both as players and as developing people.

Enhancing relationships

Those who game with their romantic partners do so often and prefer gaming experiences where they work collaboratively. Games that are “low-stakes” and focus on building something together, and games that are designed with co-op in mind, are favorites for romantic partners. Online games are often virtual spaces for people to have a conversation and spend time together doing an activity.

Founded in 1994, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has served as the voice and advocate for the U.S. video game industry for more than 30 years. Its members are the innovators, creators, publishers and business leaders that are reimagining entertainment and transforming how we interact, learn, connect and play. The ESA works to expand and protect the dynamic marketplace for video games through innovative and engaging initiatives that showcase the positive impact of video games on people, culture and the economy to secure a vibrant future for the industry for decades to come. To read the full “Essential Facts About the U.S. Video Game Industry,” report, click here.

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