Jul 13, 2021 - Technology

Study: Gaming population leans more male and less racially diverse

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The U.S. gaming population is slightly more male and less racially diverse than the country as a whole, but it's also growing, according to new data released Tuesday by the industry's leading trade group.

Why it matters: The annual Entertainment Software Association survey addressed the question of who plays games in America with an answer that gradually — with notable exceptions — is becoming "most people."

  • The survey of 4,000 Americans age 18 and up considers gaming broadly, looking at players and gaming of all types, from kids to seniors, people playing on tablets, consoles and PCs. (Read the full report.)
  • The ESA says the poll was conducted with a margin of error of 1.55%.

More gamers: The ESA pegs the overall gaming population in the U.S. at 227 million, up from 214 million last year.

  • The average age of the American gamer is 31 (80% over 18).

Gamers are still mostly men: 45% of gamers identify as female, 55% as male, according to the ESA.

  • That compares to 51% of Americans identifying as female, according to U.S. Census estimates for 2019, the most recent year available.

People of color also appear to be under-represented: 73% of ESA respondents said they are white, 9% Hispanic, 8% Black, and 6% Asian.

  • The Census estimates for America overall are 19% Hispanic, 13% Black and 6% Asian.
  • The difference can be attributed to myriad factors, including gatekeeping, representation, and the class divides that keep gaming, a fairly expensive pastime, out of the hands of many.
  • Just the presence of that breakdown, a first for the ESA's annual reports, is a breakthrough. Of the addition, ESA chief Stanley Pierre-Louis told Axios, "Our report seeks to recognize and quantify the level of engagement by diverse consumers."

The impact of COVID seems most apparent in the ESA's numbers about gaming with others:

  • 77% of gamers play with others every week, up from 65% the year prior.
  • 74% of parents play with gamers with their children, up from 55% the year prior.

The bottom line: The ESA's findings show a more diverse player base that at least nudges against the stereotype of the gamer as a young white man.

  • "The video game industry is deeply invested in continuing to expand our player base by making games more accessible and reflective of all," Pierre-Louis said, "as evidenced by various diversity efforts across the industry."

Editor's note: This story has been updated after having originally stated that the ESA seemed to only offer male/female gender choices in their survey. The ESA says it did offer an "other/prefer not to answer" choice. It wasn't selected by enough people to figure into the percentages shared.

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