"Video games sit at the confluence of history, technology, and art in such a way that's found in no other medium a place where influences from every creative field meet, mix, and recombine." -Daniel D. Snyder, The Atlantic. When most people conjure the image of a gamer they generally think of the past: a nerdy 18-25 year old male, probably white. The face of gaming has changed significantly over the last twelve years and now both men and women, young and old, and people of all races are engaged in games on a regular basis. Simply put, almost every conceivable group of people is now engaged in gaming, just not all groups are engaged in all types of gaming.
According to a report put out in 2012 by the Entertainment Software Association, the average American households have at least one dedicated gaming consul, PC, or smartphone and 49% of US households have an average of two. Roughly a third of game players in the US are over the age of 36, one third are between the ages of 19 and 35, and the remaining third are 18 and under (meaning that two thirds of gamers in the US are adults and that the average age of a game player in the US is 30!) Also, gender wise game players are now split evenly with 47% of all electronic gamers being women.
"What we are seeing in games is art at a world class stage design that is almost unmatched anywhere else. It has been very exciting to me to see so many ideas that integrate social good and efforts to make the world a better place through games." -Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States
The way in which people are engaging with games is changing. Console gaming (Microsoft X-Box, Sony Playstation, and Nintendo Wii) has been on the decline over the last couple of years while social media gaming and mobile device gaming has been on the increase. Similarly board gaming has also been on the rise (according to the 2011 US Census section on Arts, Recreation, and Travel) for the last twelve years with the explosion of number and quality of titles and has drawn increasing numbers of 'board game geeks' who wish to connect with people in person in the face of an increasingly electronic world.
So who plays games? What games do they play? Electronic gaming wise, women tend to skew towards games like The Sims (which is the "World's Biggest-Selling Simulation Series", and "Best Selling PC Game of All Time"), dance and fitness games, and social media gaming. Men tend towards first person shooters, strategy games, and sports games. Both men and women tend to engage in role playing games in roughly equal numbers. In the board gaming world less information is out there about consumption and engagement but it can be assumed, somewhat safely, that similar propensities exist throughout different platforms.
How can the arts harness this? As arts groups such as The Tate, The Royal Opera, Jacob's Pillow, and other groups explore game like content and applications they can use this data to fine target the apps they create towards market segments. As an industry, any arts group can use a game dynamic in order to drive deeper engagement in marketing or development. Activities such as the Glass Hunt on the Oregon Coast have proven successful at driving interest in art through a game layer, in this case, a scavenger hunt. Other groups such as 2am theatre have used applications such as scavengr to drive similar efforts in a combined physical and electronic fashion. In the arts, a typical marketing campaign has a one way thrust: "buy tickets, come see our show". With games, can be enticed to have longer involvement time-frames and be induced to repeat engagement.
Has your organization explored the possibility of using a game dynamic? Was it through social media, an app, or through an old school scavenger hunt? What did you find successful? What were your challenges? This series will continue in two more weeks with an exploration of how to approach game design, test games, and implement them. If you have questions regarding this topic or any others please ask them in the comments section!