Video Games: Just who plays them?

If you were asked to describe someone who plays video games, what would your response be? Someone young, with poor social skills, and male, we all know the stereotype of the “nerd” or “geek”.  Yet this image could not be further from the truth. A 2011 study by the American Entertainment Software Association (ESA) shows that the average gamer is 37 years old, and has been playing for at least 12 years. Also quite surprising is that adult women make up a greater percentage of the game-playing population than boys aged under 17. Therefore almost everyone plays games in 2011, and if most people thought about it for a moment that wouldn’t come as much of a surprise. However the stereotype of gaming as a solitary activity still persists – people sat in their bedrooms playing other people sat in their bedrooms for hours at a time. That can be true, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the ESA study also found that 65% of gamers played with other people, in person. Gaming as a social activity is no less common than watching a film, ranging from playing with a few mates in your living room to huge gatherings of hundreds of people.

With the age of the average gamer getting older, and games becoming more advanced, recent years have seen a rise in competitive gaming, sometimes called “e-sports”. Nearly anything with a competitive element and a skill requirement has a scene out there somewhere, with people signing lucrative sponsorship contracts and winning huge cash prizes for first person shooters like Call of Duty and Halo, real time strategy like Starcraft II, or fighting games like Street Fighter. Personally, I love fighting games; I can still remember playing Street Fighter II on the Super Nintendo when I was about 6 years old, and with the genre undergoing a revival since the release of Street Fighter IV, many of the people who played the previous games in their younger years are returning to the modern equivalents.

Most Sundays I head down to Gamerbase, a dedicated gaming centre located inside HMV on Market Street, to play these kinds of games. The people I’ve met are friendly and welcoming, and really are a ‘community’. As well as the social aspect of playing people in person, there is the competitive element, as the best way to get better at something is to play against other people in person and exchange ideas. There is also a growing national community, and every year a huge international tournament is held in London, with players from all around the world in attendance. Me and a couple of friends are running a Street Fighter IV tournament on the 29th October in Gamerbase, which we had to limit to 100 signups as we weren’t sure how we’d actually manage any more (search “Manchester Battle Arena” on Facebook if you’re interested in future events).

Gaming really is evolving into something new; from the reclusive, “uncool” activity of teenage boys to a competitive, social and all-inclusive pastime.

Written by: Ollie Milne




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