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Pew Research Survey Says Most People Who Play Video Games Don’t Call Themselves ‘Gamers’

The Pew Research Center is again digging into gaming demographics, this time asking a survey of 2,001 people whether they use the term “gamer,” as well as many other questions relating to how games are perceived.

“Public attitudes toward games – and the people who play them – are complex and often uncertain,” Maeve Duggan writes.

The survey confirmed that basically equal numbers of men and women play games, but dug into a big difference in the demographics: that men are far more likely to identify with the “gamer” label.

“Men are more than twice as likely as women to call themselves “gamers” (15% vs. 6%). And among those ages 18 to 29, 33% of men say the term “gamer” describes them well, more than three times the proportion of young women (9%) who say the same.”

In fact, 10% of the people who play video games might call themselves gamers.

On the issues of violence and learning, Americans seem to be torn. In general, around 34%-47% of Americans believe that some games can be helpful for developing communication and problem-solving skills, and that some games are better for you than television. A similar chunk believes that some games are a waste of time.

But when it comes to believing in the positives of playing games, people with some gaming experience are more likely to say that most games are good for you. From the survey:

  • 25% of those who play games (and 39% of self-identified gamers) think most video games help develop good problem solving and strategic thinking skills, compared with just 8% of those who do not play games.
  • 17% of those who play video games (and 34% of those who call themselves gamers) think most games are a better form of entertainment than TV. This compares with just 5% of those who do not play games.
  • 15% of video game players (and 28% of self-described gamers) think most games promote teamwork and communication. Just 6% of those without gaming experience agree.

When it comes to representations of diversity in gaming, the majority response can be summed up as, “ehhhhhhhhhhhh?”

“Fully 47% of all adults are unsure if most video games portray minorities poorly, while 40% are unsure if most video games portray women poorly.”

Even among the groups familiar with gaming, results are mixed in that domain. For example, when it comes to how video games represent women, 26% of people who play video games say that most games don’t treat women poorly. 34% say that some games do, but others do not. 16% think that unfair treatment of women is a facet of most games, and a whopping 26% just aren’t sure.

Among people who don’t play games, the percentage of unsure people rises to 55%.

The stats about who does and doesn’t call themselves gamers are really interesting to me. Anecdotal evidence shouldn’t be conflated with surveys like this, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked about games with other women, and heard them clarify that they’re not gamers or don’t really play games, even while they’re listing off games that they’ve played.

I don’t particularly care about the label either way (though I find it to be convenient shorthand). But it’s certainly telling that even as playing games becomes more common, the label doesn’t gain popularity.

The whole survey is interesting and well-worth a read.

Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin’s Gaming With the Moms podcast. You can always count on Simone to make it weird.
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Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin's Gaming With the Moms podcast. You can always count on Simone to make it weird.

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