The Shifting Demographics of Gamers in Modern History

The term ‘gamer’ has historically conjured up images of spotty male teenagers sat alone in their bedroom with the door closed and the lights off. While that stereotype may once have had an element of truth, the demographic of gamers in the 21st century is far more wide reaching.

The creation of the internet revolutionised the way that games are played, allowing the practice to become a more mainstream entertainment activity. For many people gaming is now firmly embedded into their daily lives, particularly for those who play games via mobile devices.

The increase in both the quantity and quality of online games has ensured the industry is now thriving. For example, those that enjoy gambling have access to literally hundreds of online slot games via their mobile device, with themes ranging from historical events, to those based on hit movies.

Read on as we look at how gaming has evolved over the past few decades and assess what the future may hold for this 21st century phenomenon.

The Background to Gaming

Gaming has long been established as a lifestyle choice for humans, with evidence of primitive board games unearthed dating back almost 6,000 years. With game playing such an intrinsic part of human nature, it is no surprise to find that much of the technological revolution during the last century was driven by gaming.

Almost every new form of technology including personal computers, mobile phones and other connected devices have dedicated at least part of their platforms to gaming. This has eventually opened up the genre to a much wider demographic, with the last couple of decades seeing a dramatic shift in the cross-section of people who play games.

The First Console Boom

The concept of video gaming can be traced back to the 1940 New York World Fair, but it took more than 30 years for the concept to truly take off around the world. Developers Atari were responsible for kicking things off with the Atari 2600 in 1977, a console with interchangeable game cartridges and powered by a joystick.

This sparked a massive explosion in the popularity of amusement arcades, with games such as Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong arriving on the scene soon after. Their popularity highlighted the possibilities for gaming companies and laid the foundations for the landscape that exists today.

The New Wave of Consoles

Developers such as Sega, Sony and Nintendo went head-to-head around the turn of the century, with each firm eager to establish themselves at the top of the gaming tree. Consoles such as the PlayStation and Xbox became an integral part of homes around the world, although they were largely used by teenage gamers or young male adults.

However, the advent of online gaming transformed the sector, with consoles such as the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii helping to attract a wider audience. The sector has continued to gravitate online since then, with consumer demand driving further change in the way that games are played and who play them.

A Whole New World

One of the biggest shifts in gaming demographics to occur following the advent of online gaming has been the significant increase in female participation. While men and women typically have different gaming habits, women are more likely than ever before to participate regularly in playing games.

Part of this can be attributed to the realisation by game developers that a sizeable proportion of the population were being ignored. The creation of social games such as online bingo, Candy Crush and Bubble Witch highlights how developers have strived to tap into the growing popularity of gaming amongst women.

The Shift to Mobile

Smartphones have become the Filofax of the modern era, with the devices effectively the ‘hub’ around which people live their lives. Research has show that mobile usage is still rising, with the daily average per person predicted to be around four hours by 2021.

Gaming is responsible for much of that growth, with people across the age spectrum playing games on their devices on a daily basis. It is estimated that mobile gaming will make up around 60 percent of the sector over the next two years, highlighting how things have changed.

Embracing Competition

The rise in popularity of gaming undoubtedly has its roots in the fact that humans tend to be competitive by nature. Developers have been quick to recognise this, creating games that pitch people against others or uses artificial intelligence (AI) to challenge them.

Puzzle, arcade, action, racing and strategy are amongst the most popular genres with mobile gamers, demonstrating that people crave competition when they play. Regardless of gender or age people love to test themselves and the modern gaming landscape allows them to do that on a daily basis.

The Social Side

For many people the social side of gaming is as important as the competitive element, and the current set-up panders to their needs. For instance, many online casino or bingo operators incorporate chatroom functions into their site to allow people to interact with other players.

It is a similar story on social networking platforms such as Facebook, with their vast range of games allowing users to interact with friends and family through gaming. That latter point neatly brings the circle back to competition, with the games cleverly appealing to our desire to be successful in our pursuits.

Gaming in the Future

Gaming has progressed a long way over the past few decades and things are likely to keep evolving over the coming years. The impending launch of the next-generation consoles is an exciting development, while advancements in smartphone technology will keep pushing the boundaries in mobile gaming.

Virtual reality (VR) tech is also expected to transform the sector, with products such as the Oculus Rift headset opening up a wealth of possibilities for game developers. Players will be able to immerse themselves into games like never before, thus further heightening the appeal of gaming for people of all ages.

Keep up with the top stories from Reader’s Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.