Co-gaming parents is a big opportunity

Colin Campbell, Thursday, April 13th, 2023 2:14 pm

Two new research surveys were released this week, helping us to understand the ever-shifting nature of game consumers, their habits and their preferences across demographic sectors.

Gaming media hub Fandom – which publishes GameSpot, among many other entertainment properties – released a survey today which sheds light on its consumers’ habits. Fandom (formerly Wikia) says its audience includes “more than 150 million gaming fans”.

Most interesting is the growing pastime of parents who play video games with their kids. Bearing in mind the nature of Fandom’s audience – the survey was taken from 15,000 Fandom users – it’s still notable how and why parents play with their kids.

Life skills

The survey found that parents with children aged 3-8 are 89% more likely to co-game in order to better understand the content of the games their kids are playing. Parents of teens are 46% more likely to play games with their kids.

Co-gaming parents are 25% more likely to agree that gaming fosters leadership skills, 26% more likely to agree it teaches important life skills and 33% more likely to agree it establishes teamwork and collaboration.

The top five games parents play with their kids are either wholesome, or creative. Mario games come top at 50%, followed by Minecraft (48%), Roblox (37%), Super Smash Bros (33%) and Kirby games (32%).

When asked for their motivations for playing with kids, 56% say it’s just a fun activity to do together. 44% play because their kids ask them to, while 41% are avid gamers who want to continue playing.

Among players of all ages, their motivations for playing games, they say, are as follows;

Stress relief (48%)
Relaxation (47%)
Escapism (45%)

Gamers say the most important factors in playing a game are overall quality, followed by storyline & plot, then design and visuals. Younger players are more likely to play competitive games, while older players say they are drawn towards games featuring compelling storylines and characters.

Casual conversations

Anecdotally, there’s another benefit to taking an interest in the video games our kids play. Casual conversations with kids are much more likely to flourish when they are about shared interests, as opposed to tired gambits like “how’s school?”. I have four kids who all play games, and a significant amount of our conversational interactions are about the games we play and enjoy, even if we don’t play those games together.

I also find that parents who don’t understand games are almost always curious to know as much as they can about their kids favorites, even (or especially) when they don’t want to play the games themselves. Earlier today, a friend of mine, whose son is Fortnite-mad, wanted to know “what the f*** is a skin?”. When I explained, he seemed satisfied that it was nothing to be concerned about.

Academic studies are finally triumphing over media scare stories about problems like video game addiction. This study of 2,000 fifth grade children found that those who reported playing video games for three hours per day or more performed better on cognitive skills tests involving impulse control and working memory compared to children who had never played video games.

Elsewhere, DFC Intelligence released DFC Video Game Consumer Segmentation Service, which states that there are currently 3.7 billion people in the world who play games – almost half the world’s population. Of course, the devices they use, and the kinds of games they play differ enormously according to geography and age. Mostly though, people play mobile games.

As DFC points out in its release: “The actual core consumer base is only about 10 percent of the 3.7 billion. Furthermore, that 10 percent needs to be further sub-segmented to obtain the true addressable market for a specific product.”

The release continues to make the point that core gamers are not the same as people who play games casually. “Currently, the biggest focus for the core game industry is naturally on targeting the 300 million … consumers that buy dedicated systems to play games, whether it be a console system or a gaming PC. This audience is growing, but not nearly as fast as the global audience which is driven by being able to play games on mobile phones.”

DFC predicts that mobile-hybrid devices that stream games will come to dominate the market, citing the success of Nintendo’s portable Switch as an early trend-setter. Nintendo, to its credit, has always focused its attention on creating games that families can share and enjoy. Its success as a cross-generational entertainment brand – much like Disney – continues to pay dividends. Its marketing is always about bringing families together.

“Smartphones with touch screens are serving as an entry point for billions of global consumers,” states the release. “The next challenge for the video game industry is figuring out how to upgrade those consumers to the next level.” Connecting generations through games seems like a smart solution. Nintendo has already figured this out. Other companies, with traditionally narrower perspectives on their target audience, are working hard to follow suit.

Video games are still only a few decades old, and many people who grew up during the ’80s and ’90s either did not desire to play them, or were not given the opportunity, due to economic reasons. But that is all changing. Video games are no longer a divider between generations, but a unifier.

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell has been reporting on the gaming industry for more than three decades, including for Polygon, IGN, The Guardian, Next Generation, and The Economist. © 2024 | All Rights Reserved.