ESA report leans into gaming’s positive benefits

Colin Campbell, Friday, July 14th, 2023 9:05 am

Each year, the Entertainment Software Association releases a raft of stats about video game consumption in the United States, that speaks to the growing popularity and positivity of gaming. After all, the ESA is tasked with representing the political and collective public-facing interests of game companies.

This year’s report, released earlier in the week, once again highlights gaming’s influence over modern culture. The ESA leads with the stat that nearly two thirds of U.S. adults play games regularly, a number that jumps to 76 percent for children under the age of 18.

The ESA also leans heavily into a shift in attitudes towards games as a net positive in people’s lives. Ninety six percent of all Americans see video games as beneficial, even if they don’t play them regularly. “Video games are seen as a tool for building problem-solving skills, teamwork and collaboration, communication, conflict resolution and leadership skills,” states the trade org.

Positive attitudes to games have ticked upwards as the form has matured. The console business is now more than 50 years old. Media scare stories from the ’80s and ’90s are now rare, or have moved on to the real problem of bad actors in online social spaces, including games. Academic studies regularly demonstrate positive outcomes for children who play games at healthy levels.

Of those people who play games, 80% play with others. Three quarters of U.S. parents say they play video games to have fun and connect with their kids. “Most believe that games help them stay connected to friends and family and strengthen those relationships,” states the report.

86% agree that games “bring people joy”, while 84% recognize that games bring mental stimulation. 83% say they deliver stress relief. Around four out of five people agree that games help improve cognitive skills and solving skills as well as bringing people together. 71% say games help to foster feelings of community.

Gaming’s power to connect – rather than to isolate – is widely understood by the public. 88% say games expand their social circles and 82% agree that games introduce them to new friends. Half of players say they met a good friend or significant other through a game. Around half of players say that games are a good way for families to spend time together.

Here are some more highlights and stats from the report.

Representation: The gender split between gamers is 53% male and 46% female. 72% of players identify as White, 10% Hispanic. 8% Black / African-American and 6% Asian / Pacific Islander. The average player is 32 years old and has been playing for 21 years.

Preferences: The top five genres show how much mobile and casual games influence the market. They are currently puzzles (63%), arcade (52%), skill & chance (44%), shooters (42%) and action (41%). Players are more likely than non-players to consume associated entertainments like on-demand TV (59% vs 47%), watch YouTube / Twitch (60% vs 35%), watch movies in a theater (20% vs 9%), play tabletop games (25% vs 16%) and listen to podcasts and audiobooks (31% vs 20%). 45% of players agree that video games give them the most value for their money compared to movies, TV and music.

Engagement: 75% of players play at least four hours of games a week, across all platforms. 64% use mobiles – 12% only play on smartphones. 54% use consoles. 45% play on a laptop or PC. 24% use a tablet, while 10% use a VR headset. 58% of adult players use multiple platforms.

Ratings: Among parents with children who play games, 84% say they are aware of ESRB ratings and 74% regularly make use of the ratings system. 78 % of parents make all or most of the content decisions for their kids (78%), while 17% opt for a hybrid approach that involves their kids’ input. Last year, half of ESRB-rated games were rated E for Everyone. 17% were for ages ten and over. 21% were for teens, while 12% were rated mature.

Economics: Total U.S. consumer spend on video games in 2022 came in at 56.6 billion, a slight decline on 2021’s $59.6 billion, but higher than 2020’s $56.1 billion. The top-selling console / PC games were Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Elden Ring, Madden NFL 23, God of War: Ragnarök, and Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. The top grossing mobile games were Candy Crush Saga, Roblox, Coin Master, Royal Match and Pokémon Go.

“Games continue to inspire and delight us all,” wrote ESA President & Chief Executive Officer Stanley Pierre-Louis (pictured above) in the report’s introduction. “Play is a universal need for kids as well as adults. Video games build community, keep our minds sharp and bring us closer to others. Embracing the power of games unlocks our extraordinary potential, transforming lives – and the world.”

You can read the full report here, or watch an animated infographic here.

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.