Blog Archives

The Gamers You Thought You Knew

new face of gaming

A new study commissioned by the streaming video platform Twitch entitled “The New Face of Gamers,” released this week reveals some interesting facts about the gaming public. In her article, “Gamers More Likely To Be Social, Educated Than Non-Gamers,” Lisa Winter summarizes some of the key findings:

Gamers are more likely to consider family a top priority than non-gamers (82% vs 68%) as well as placing a high importance on friends (57% vs 35%). Gamers and their parents are also more likely to have been college educated (43% and 52%, respectively) than non-gamers and their parents (36% and 37%, respectively).

When it comes to their occupation, 67% of gamers feel positive about their aspirations, while only 42% of non-gamers feel the same way. Gamers are also more likely to be employed full time than those who don’t partake in games (42% vs 39%). Sixty-one percent of gamers would describe themselves as natural leaders, compared to 35% of non-gamers.

Socially-speaking, gamers are much more likely to value personally making a positive impact on society (76% vs 55%) while preferring to shop at corporations backing social causes (58% vs 36%). Ethical business practices matter to 78% of gamers, compared to 65% of non-gamers.

Gamers also appear to be more tech-savvy than non-gamers, as they are more likely to use technology like smart phones, tablets, or streaming devices (like Google Chromecast) while at a friend’s house (42% vs 15%), on vacation (40% vs 18%), at work (20% vs 10%), commuting (19% vs 5%) or at a restaurant (18% vs 6%). With gamers being connected so frequently, they could be influencing how media content is distributed. Broadcast television tune-in frequency is down 12% in 2014 when compared to 2011 as part of the trend away from traditional media and coming toward online sources.

Despite the success of sites like Lumosity, I think that this perspective is long overdue and the reporting often missing many of the positive aspects of gaming and gamers. It seems to be more popular to continue to bash video games as a childish waste of time at best and a training ground for homicidal maniacs at worst. As always, the truth is more complicated. Over the past few months, Lisa Winter has written other articles concerning how the playing of video games has been linked to a boost in brain volume and creating a sharper mind:

There has been a lot of recent research to suggest that video games improve brain performance – and now a recent study has shown that just 30 minutes of gameplay per day for two months can actually increase the volume of gray matter in the areas of the brain that control spatial awareness, memory, and strategic thinking. 

I could point out the pluses and minuses of playing video games and try to counteract the stereotype that gaming conjures in most non-gamers, but is it even worth it? I think back to a favorite film of mine, On Any Sunday, in which Bruce Brown legitimizes motorcycle racing much in the same way he did in his previous documentary about surfing, The Endless Summer. Surfing and motorcycle culture have spread all over the world and are enjoyed by the widest variety of people and yet their stereotypes are firmly implanted on everyone’s minds. Why should gamers be any different?

Cast Your Vote: Consoles

polls

I have been considering adding more polls to my blog for some time but quickly realized that the blog does not yet receive the traffic required to make the polls truly meaningful. After a little research online I found several existing surveys I thought were interesting and am sharing them here. The polls range widely in topics concerning gaming-related subjects and in some cases the results are surprising. I might even venture to argue that they are incorrect. Over the next few weeks I will post some of these polls and offer you the chance to weigh in with your own opinions. The polls will be published as posts but then be added to the new blog section as permanent pages.

Our first topic concerns the main consoles on the market today and those coming soon. All of these polls can be found on gameFAQs.com except where noted. I find the results surprising. For full transparency I must admit that I only own an Xbox console and my experience with the PlayStation is fairly limited. But I cannot believe that the results of the online polls are accurate. According to the data from gameFAQs.com, gamers responded not only that they would overwhelmingly purchase the PlayStation over the Xbox (60% vs 3%), but they would buy the Wii U over the Xbox One (13% vs 3%). In my experience I find this very hard to believe. That poll was taken 6/21/13, weeks after the new consoles were revealed but before Microsoft’s reversal on the DRM issues. Apparently though, even the changes to the rights’ policies did not change the responses with 55% stating that they were not planning on buying an Xbox One.

Ricochet.com seems to agree with gameFAQs.com findings. In their article from June 28,  “Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4“, where they quote poll results showing that gamers were favoring the PlayStation 95% over the Xbox One. Again, I find this very hard to believe. Are the respondents all current PS3 fan boys?

Not all sources show the same results however. On June 21, CNET.com posted it’s “Friday Poll: Now will you buy an Xbox One or a PS4?” The subtitle was “Microsoft unveiled some big changes to the Xbox One Internet and used-game requirements. Does this change your mind about which console to buy?” Their results still show the PS4 in the lead but with a much smaller advantage (48% vs 45%). I still am surprised that the PS4 is in the lead and there am conducting my own (albeit unscientific) poll. Your participation is greatly appreciated.

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Poll of the Day  |  06/012/13

Based on what you’ve seen so far, how would you rate the three next-generation consoles?

PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox One 62.91% 32108
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U 18.72% 9552
Wii U, PlayStation 4, Xbox One 13.26% 6769
Wii U, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 0.83% 426
Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U 3.25% 1661
Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 4 1.02% 521
TOTAL VOTES 51037
Source: GameFAQs.com | For more poll details

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Poll of the Day  |  07/03/13

Got PlayStation 3?

Yes, I own the newest super slim model 6.07% 2583
Yes, I own the normal slim model 35.19% 14967
Yes, I still have my original fat PS3 26.45% 11249
Not yet, but I might pick one up if they drop in price 9.65% 4103
I used to, but I lost/sold/broke/trashed it 3.28% 1394
No, and I doubt I ever will 19.36% 8233
TOTAL VOTES 42529
Source: GameFAQs.com | For more poll details

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Poll of the Day  |  07/04/13

Got Xbox 360?

Yes, I own the brand new E model 2.5% 967
Yes, I own the normal slim S model 20.33% 7858
Yes, I still have my original model 360 29.38% 11356
Not yet, but I might pick one up if they drop in price 2.58% 996
I used to, but I lost/sold/broke/trashed it 9.18% 3549
No, and I doubt I ever will 36.03% 13924
TOTAL VOTES 38650
Source: GameFAQs.com | For more poll details

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Poll of the Day  |  07/05/13

Got Wii U?

Yes, I have the Deluxe 32GB model 16.54% 6259
Yes, I have the Basic 8GB model 2.7% 1023
Not yet, but I plan to get one this year 8.56% 3239
Not until there’s a price drop or a must-have game 33.02% 12495
No, I don’t have any interest in buying one 39.17% 14822
TOTAL VOTES 37838
Source: GameFAQs.com | For more poll details

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Poll of the Day  |  06/27/13

Do you think any of the new Android-powered game systems (like Ouya, Nvidia Shield, or Mad Catz MOJO) will make a real impact on gaming?

Yes, they are leading the true next generation of game systems 0.77% 294
Possibly, they’ll be real competition to the Wii U, PS4, and Xbox One 1.32% 506
Maybe, if they can get some big-name quality exclusive games 21.83% 8340
Not really, they can’t really compete with true game consoles and portables 45.72% 17464
Not at all, I don’t expect any of them to be sold by this time next year 10.27% 3922
No, because I haven’t even heard of any of those systems until now 20.09% 7675
TOTAL VOTES 38201
Source: GameFAQs.com | For more poll details

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Poll of the Day  |  06/27/13

How many different game consoles do you currently have hooked up and ready to play in your home?

None – I’m not really a console gamer 4.92% 2091
Just one – that’s all I need 23.08% 9815
Two or three – Enough to cover the exclusive games 43.19% 18372
Four or five – Spanning more than one generation 19.64% 8355
Six to ten – I’ve got a huge choice of systems 6.4% 2722
More than ten – I’m a bit of a collector 2.77% 1178
TOTAL VOTES 42533
Source: GameFAQs.com | For more poll details

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Poll of the Day  |  06/27/13

Has Microsoft’s reversal on the Xbox One’s DRM policies made you reconsider buying one?

I was planning to buy one anyway, so it didn’t change my mind 5.18% 1984
Yes, I was hesitant before, but I’m definitely getting one now 3.9% 1494
A little, I’m not sold on it quite yet, but I’m warming up 18.05% 6911
Not really, I’m still not planning to buy one 55.92% 21411
Not at all, I’m probably even less likely to buy one now 16.94% 6487
TOTAL VOTES 38287
Source: GameFAQs.com | For more poll details

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Longest Day of the Year

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Summer solstice. End of the school year. A time of transition. Today is the longest day of the year and marks the start of a change from the daily pattern that we follow during the school year to the less structured schedule of summer. It also marks an important change for my gaming habits and probably for many of you as well. My three sons all leave for sleepaway camp for a month.

The next month is full of outdoor activity, making new friends, reconnecting with old friends and trying new things. They swim in the pool and the lake, work in the wood shop (their favorite) and play various sports. The do not play any video games at all. A complete break. Not even games in their iPods.

Their departure means significant changes for our household as well. It’s quiet. Things stay clean and organized. It’s weird. Most parents look forward to having a break from their kids. You are not responsible for anyone but yourself. You can do what you like with your time. Yes, it’s great – for a very short time. You may think it strange, but I miss them almost immediately. I don’t miss the arguing and fighting or the significant mess they leave everywhere, that is for sure, but a large part of my enjoyment of gaming comes with sharing it with my kids.  Seeing the experiences through their eyes adds dimension and increases the fun. Sure, there are games that are meant for adults and I play those by myself or with adults, but the majority of games are intended for wide audiences and the overall experience is enhanced by the variety of reactions from the players of different ages.

The photo at the top of this post was taken a year or two ago from the hammock in my back yard. It is of a great sycamore tree that my boys referred to as the “Y Tree” due to its overall shape. This tree was very large. It had a trunk about five feet wide and rose to about seventy feet. It was the largest tree on my property and dwarfed all others around it. It is gone now. The strong winds of Superstorm Sandy caused a crack where the trunk divided and the tree experts said it was not wise to try to save it. As they took it down, the foreman showed me the crack and revealed that water had been seeping into the division for a long time and had rotted out the center of the tree. The storm had just sped up the process and really did us a favor by revealing the weakness.

Needless to say, the removal of the tree has completely changed the back yard. Where once there was mostly shade, now there is bright sun. The trees that surround the hole left by the missing branches will eventually start to extend and fill in the gap, but for now the most prominent element is what is missing.

For the next month while my kids are extending their branches I will be playing with my adult friends. Lately a few of us have formed a regular team and been playing coop games including Fuse and Borderlands 1 and 2. It is infinitely a more enjoyable experience to play in party of regulars than to jump into a public match. My sister and her daughter are part of this team. They have their own transition occurring now as her daughter graduates high school this weekend and looks forward to college life. And I thought a month without my boys was a change.

The Stigma of Gaming

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I am sure that many of you adult gamers out there have had the experience of bringing up the topic of gaming in a discussion with another adult and having them politely (or otherwise) dismiss you as a childish loser. I can’t defend all gaming or all gamers, but this wholesale dismissal strikes me as blatant ignorance. Yet most adults outside the gaming industry share the opinion that gaming is something that children and teens spend their time on and adults who are intent on not looking silly should avoid.

I believe that many things help form this opinion. These include the reality of teen and other gamers who spend inordinate amounts of time playing and often obsessing about a specific game or gaming in general. Parents and other adults just have no interest in hearing about the gamer’s achievements and advancements. That is somewhat to be expected. Much like someone going on and on about a television series that you don’t watch, there is only so much that you wish to hear.

But with gaming there is more to the disinterest which sometimes edges on disgust. Although almost everyone plays games of some sort whether it be crossword puzzles, Sudoku, Scrabble or chess. These are socially acceptable games. They are seen as broadening the mind and certainly not a waste of time. Other games, especially first-person shooters suffer a much worse evaluation. This is especially irritating as most of the critics have never played the games that they criticize. I do not expect non-gamers to jump into an online deathmatch to help form their opinion but perhaps they might see their actions in a different light if they likened it to someone who has never seen an opera dismissing it as snobby and irrelevant.

There is another side of it as well. Much like the old “Age/Fear of Computers” chart jokes of the recent past, age makes a big difference in the opinions concerning gaming. Younger adults tend to be more knowledgeable and have more video gaming experience than older adults. The fact that they have played some video games in the past leads many to be more accepting of the genre in general. A parallel to the different music types throughout the generations could be drawn. Rock and Roll, Punk, Rap, once edgy are all now more than accepted, they are the mainstream. Just as those of a “certain age” (or those younger who think like their older counterparts) who feel it necessary to not understand their computers or their smart phones, there are those who distance themselves from gaming. You know these people. They are your coworkers who refuse to “get” anything beyond word processors, email and spreadsheets lest they be pigeonholed into actually using the applications. In the past there was a time when these fears were justified. Architects who knew CAD were destined to perform these duties for those senior designers that could not be bothered to learn the new technology for example. But those days are gone and proficiency with today’s tools is no longer optional.

I believe that gaming knowledge and gaming industry knowledge is growing in social pertinence much akin to television, music and literature. The average person knows quite a bit about these mediums as well as their artists, actors, directors and producers. Again, age plays a big role in the depth of experience that the average person has with gaming and this plays a significant role in their attitude towards it. But it is my hope that the pendulum swings quickly so as not to leave behind a generation. Perhaps they will be swayed by the dizzying amount of profit that many of today’s games successes earn. From what start as simple apps grow industries. From some franchises grow empires. Not all will last and fashions and technologies change, but the trend is undisputable. Video games are taking over and swallowing much of Hollywood’s thunder and much of actual Hollywood.

Maybe the day that we broach the subject of video gaming and get the “that’s nice for you” look will be over soon. If you have ever experienced what I am describing, I encourage you all to share your stories here.

High Fidelity

game_musicAs a teen and college student I prided myself on having the most enlightened taste in music. I had to know everything about who I considered the most profound and original artists. Much like the John Cusack character in the film High Fidelity, I was a music snob. I knew people and small specialty shops where I could hear and obtain the latest, coolest music from all over the world. And then I got old apparently. I have a large music collection collected over the years that makes it all too easy to not actively look for new music.

I have found that video games are an excellent way of experiencing new music whether it be right up your alley or a surprising departure from your usual tastes. Certain games have stood out as having especially well-chosen soundtracks in my opinion. Some of my favorites include Forza 2 where I learned of artists including LCD Soundsystem and The Pinker Tones, both new to me at the time I admit with some embarrassment. Since then I have become enormous fans of both of those artists. Both bands had a few tracks in the game and both had one that stood out. LCD Soundsystem’s “Daft Punk is Playing in my House” and The Pinker Tones’ “Karma Hunters” encouraged me to look into those bands discology and quickly load up on their albums.

The Dirt series has had some great music selections as well. Dirt 3 includes a track from the band Atmosphere called “The Waitress“. I strongly recommend that you give it a listen. The games that are grabbing my music attention these days include Forza Horizon and Far Cry 3. Forza Horizon includes some of my favorite bands including The Arctic Monkeys, The Hives and reprises with LCD Soundsystem. Far Cry 3 turned me on to Skrillex and Damian “Junior Gong” Marley whose “Make it Bun Dem” requires being turned up to 11.

Losing Time

boys at the pub

As I mentioned before, we have three boys who love playing games. Whether we are at home, on the road or at a restaurant, they would prefer to be playing something. The iPad makes that easy, maybe a bit too easy. Just like in the office and on the street where everyone seems to have an iPhone, every parent knows the power of handheld gaming especially when you are out and want to calm the masses. While it may be a little embarrassing when you stack up the various devices (usually by force) when the food arrives, it is so much calmer up to that point. The situation is only compounded when we dine with other families whose children also bring their own electronics. Soon the little faces around the table are aglow with the faint bluish light of tablet screens.

In our house we have had to make some rules due to just how much our boys love to play. Left to their own devices, the boys rush through their homework to ensure enough game time. The first rule was no playing during the week. Friday through Sunday were open assuming that any required schoolwork or other tasks were completed first. When we started taking Karate classes over a year ago, I altered the schedule to entice the boys into going on Saturday mornings during peak game time. The deal was that the hour they lose going to Karate class they could use sometime during the week. This has grown into Wednesday being game night. The hour seems to expand to fill whatever time is unoccupied by required tasks.

When it is time for punishment, it seems the only thing that seems to slow my boys down is “losing time”. This is game time, of course and losing it typically means that they have gone too far and results in a very sad or angry little boy. In hopes that they will gain strength and do better in Karate class, we have added a substitute punishment of doing push-ups. For now, these are also a deterrent, although having to do them is not ultimately as devastating as losing time.

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