A child's hobby? Average gamer is 37 years old

A new study from the Entertainment Software Association has unveiled some eye-opening facts about the gaming industry and the people who play games.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Though playing video games is often called a child's activity, a new study from the Entertainment Software Association has found that that perception couldn't be further from the truth.

According to the organization, which represents the game industry, the average gamer today is 37 years old. Moreover, the average game buyer is 41 years old. Because of that, a greater number of parents are playing games with their children. The ESA said that 45 percent of parents play games with their kids "at least weekly."

Those statistics are quite important to the ESA and the industry as a whole. Over the last several years, the gaming business has been targeted by critics and lawmakers who say that mature-rated titles, like the Grand Theft Auto franchise, among many others, are too easy for children to buy.

However, in April, the Federal Trade Commission released the results of an "undercover shopper survey" that found just 13 percent of underage teenagers were able to buy mature-rated games that are designated as only suitable for those 17 and older. When children attempted to buy R-rated DVDs, on the other hand, 38 percent of them were successful.

To add to that and further make its case that the majority of kids are being kept away from violent or sexually explicit games, the ESA revealed today that parents are involved in the purchase or rental of games in 91 percent of cases. In addition, 90 percent of parents said that they are aware of the content in the games their children are playing.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board, which assigns ratings to video games based on their content, was also highly touted by parents. The ESA said that 86 percent of parents are aware of game ratings, and out of that group, 98 percent believe they are accurate.

Even so, that hasn't stopped critics from taking aim at the industry and its ratings system. In September, James Steyer, the CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, an organization that touts legislating the gaming industry, pointed to his own firm's study that found 72 percent of parents would support a law that bans the sale of "ultraviolent or sexually violent" video games.

"The results of this poll clearly show that not only do the effects of ultraviolent or sexually violent games weigh heavily on the minds of parents but also that parents feel that the video game industry isn't doing nearly enough to protect kids from accessing the most ultraviolent games," Steyer said.

Regardless, the gaming industry continues to be big business. According to the ESA's study, the industry generated $25.1 billion in revenue last year. Digital game revenue, including mobile apps and social games, hit $5.9 billion last year.