Targeting social gaming to hardcore gamers

In the middle of life: video games and society

If the industry is to position itself in terms of media policy, PR professionals like to use a phrase that is as vague as it is all-encompassing: "Video games have arrived in the middle of society." But what does that actually mean? Where is the center of society and what games can we find there?

The problem with such a statement is its verifiability. But the industry has long recognized this and, thanks to surveys, studies and statistics, always has new figures and arguments ready to support what is required. We had to find out whether these actually reflect a development or whether window dressing is being practiced here. True to the phrase “Don't trust any statistics that you haven't falsified yourself”, we - empirically not representative and arbitrarily selected - asked people in the middle of life about their gaming habits. So on an average day we asked around on Mönckebergstrasse in downtown Hamburg. The result is amazing and predictable at the same time.

If you believe the latest study “Gaming in Germany”, which the Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media e.V. (BITKOM for short) presented last year, almost every third German plays computer games. Looking at the trend worldwide, this statement can be exacerbated: in its study "Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry", the US Entertainment Software Association (ESA) presented figures according to which almost three quarters of all US households are video games play. On the streets of Hamburg, however, such a positive view of things could not be confirmed, because the simple question asked without prior explanation: "Do you play computer games?" Was answered by almost all those questioned with a clear "No". It was almost irrelevant to what gender, age category or social group they belonged to. The only exception here were young people surveyed, who answered more variably and among whom almost all forms of games were widespread.

Tell me what you play ...

“I think computer games sucks. Any form of interpersonal contact is lost. ”Even if statements like those made by Heike K. (55 years old, employee) are not part of the norm, there seems to be a fundamental image problem here. Interestingly enough, when asked whether they would not even play on their mobile phones, many respondents said that they do use casual games from time to time. Classic games such as solitaire and mahjong top the list, but Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja have also been mentioned. "Computer games are not my world," said Uta C. (34 years old, businesswoman), for example, but then responded to a direct request that she liked to play Angry Birds in the subway: "It's different, just like that in between. ”And Peter J. (42 years old, bus driver) also said that he didn't have time for computer games just to then say:“ When I have to wait at the doctor or during the break between trips, I sometimes play solitaire on my mobile phone. "

The first, negative reaction to the question about computer games illustrates a picture in people's minds of what makes a computer game. And if even someone like the 19-year-old student Julia D. immediately shakes his head and does not want to have anything to do with computer games, although evenings were spent with friends in front of the Wii when asked directly, then this corresponds to a trend that the studies It tends to capture it, but does not explicitly associate it with the perception of games. The ESA found that more than half of all gamers play on their phones and the BITKOM study also confirms these figures. However, these users do not see themselves as gamers, their self-perception is completely different. Casual gamers as well as social gamers are very widespread. Thomas M. (23 years old, student) says, for example: “In my circle of friends, many who play on Facebook: Farmville, Poker, Scrabble, Civilization, actually don't care. Most of them hang out on social network sites and then you just play on the side. "

You are the controller

And yet another aspect of the changing gaming image becomes clear in the survey, because game consoles are becoming more and more variable and games no longer correspond to the media-widespread image of the first-person shooter or MMORPG. Ingrid (44 years old, housewife) and Klaus H. (42 years old, tax advisor) have at least one of almost every console in their house thanks to their five children. They too first replied that they wouldn't play computer games: “Our children do that, they have more fun there.” When asked more precisely, Ingrid admitted, somewhat shyly, that they had bought the Wii as a family console. “I have a mat for it, I do my sport with it.” Only as a computer game, she has never considered it, after all, she is physically active when doing it. The trendy party, singing and movement games, which the BITKOM study also attributes the greatest growth, are rated by very few as typical computer games. Mini-games are also enjoying great popularity in the course of this turning point and are revolutionizing social gaming behavior. Thanks to its move into children's rooms, the Wii, in particular, has an increasing influence on adult players like Michael K. (54 years old, businessman): “My children play a lot and you join in with them from time to time. I was surprised how much fun it is. They have a lot of games that you have to fumble with in front of the television. "

Hardcore gamers and games affinity

New forms of games such as casual or social games have established themselves in their use among the general public, but a large part of society does not even perceive them as typical computer games. But if that is the case, then one must ask, who does society then perceive as a player? When asked who is playing in their environment, the unanimous statement of the respondents was that only the younger generation played. And although there are exceptions such as pensioner Holger H. (73 years old), who has had a preference for adventure since the early 1980s, none of the over 60-year-olds was interested in computer games, while the under 20-year-olds - again with one Exception - everyone at least sometimes played a computer game. This coincides with the BITKOM study, which settles almost three quarters of all players under the age of 30 and only finds 5% of retirement age. In the USA things look a little different, here the ESA study predicts a trend towards playing in old age: Already today almost 30% of all players are over 50 years old and the average player is 37 years old. But even in the group of 'real' players there is no media-stylized dominance of shooters or MMORPGs with regard to the choice of games, as Sam S. (17 years old, schoolboy) confirms: “I play everything. Have a DS, an iPhone, a PC and a PS3 at home. ”And Jennifer B. (13, student) is also variable:“ Preferably with friends SingStar or Wii. I play Angry Birds alone on the iPhone. And sometimes on Facebook. "

The bottom line is that computer games, thanks to new communication technologies and innovative game forms, are becoming more widespread than they were a few years ago and can therefore be presented as having arrived in the middle of society. But the perception of the industry in society and with it the social prejudice against computer games has hardly affected this. Most gamers do not see themselves as such and therefore still rate computer games as a form of entertainment for young people. The research also revealed an interesting by-product: the classic game evening with board or card games, which the Wii generation of party games seemed to threaten, is still very much alive. Sandra A (40 years old, saleswoman) spoke on behalf of almost all of the respondents when she said: “We tried it out with the Wii, laughed hard and then went back to normal board games. It's more entertaining in the long run. "(Ls)

Originally published in IGM 05/2012.