It's become a well-worn truism over the past few years now that video games, far from being "just for kids," appeal to a wide and diverse audience. The average gamer is in his or her late 30s and has been at it for many, many years.
But what of the kids? The current 8-18 set are still out there, even if they aren't the sole focus of the industry. They're also the group that may grow up to be disenchanted with gaming. How much are they playing, in an always-on, games-on-every-device world?
The Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research group, has been tracking childrens' media consumption habits for a decade, looking at how television, books, and video games fit into the lives of American kids in the 21st century. Their most recent report finds, unsurprisingly, that children are media multasking powerhouses, pulling in over 10 hours of consumption daily, in roughly seven hours of actual time.
But are kids really spending all of their time in front of video games? Not really, it turns out. Of the 10 hours per day of media consumption the study found children engaging with daily, barely an hour is filled with games. TV still comes in tops, at well over four hours per day, followed by music and non-gaming uses of computers. Video games, compared to those activities, are a mere blip.
Both handheld and console gaming are up among children 8-18, the report finds, but still remain a small percentage of the average child's day overall. And while boys and girls are roughly equally likely to take part in handheld gaming, time spent on consoles skews dramatically toward boys, on average.
And what are kids these days spending their scant gaming hours on? 71% have played music games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band the report claims, and a further 65% are playing titles appropriate for all ages like the Super Mario franchise. And yet 25% of the 8-10 year olds in the study report playing a Grand Theft Auto game, and nearly half of all the children surveyed, ages 8-18, had played a Halo game.
In the end, the results paint a mixed picture of the next generation of gamers. Like their parents, they're engaging everywhere, and the genres we think of as casual and social gaming are beginning to dominate what time they spend in digital play. But for all that children are spending more time with their mobile devices and more time online, it seems "turn off the TV" is still more commonly heard than "turn off that video game" when it comes time for homework or even playing outside.
Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds [Kaiser Family Foundation, via Kill Screen]