The truth about gaming: Digital Australia 16

Posted on July 30, 2015

Australia’s best biennial research about video games has just been released: Digital Australia 2016, commissioned by the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association and conducted by Bond University. The predominant theme of this report is ‘Video games mature for education, health and ageing’, and the brief summary from the foreword best summarises the report’s findings:

We are witnessing breathtaking changes in the realm of digital interactive entertainment. It is hard to imagine that 15 years ago, we were debating the worth, even potential harms, of simple video games. Today attention is on the potential of this amazing medium to reinvigorate education, workplace training, consumer engagement and social and political conversation. Interactive entertainment is celebrated for its economic importance.

We all hold some assumptions about video games and technology, but the findings of the report will reset our thinking on many important matters. Some of these key findings include:

  • Average age of video game players: 33 years old
  • Proportion of video game players who are female: 47%
  • Proportion of players aged 18 and over: 78%
  • Proportion of homes with children that have video games: 98%
  • Proportion of children who have played video games as part of school curriculum: 35%

The rest of the main figures are detailed in this handy info graphic below.

Digital Australia 2016 Infograph (click to follow link)

Digital Australia 2016 Infograph (click to follow link)

In short, this research upsets the simplistic stereotype that gamers are all kids, or that they are predominantly lonely, basement-dwelling virgins. As we have known for years, gamers come in all shapes, sizes, types, and genders. It’s refreshing to see hard data to support this.

There is lots of information on how games are used in health and education, with particularly interesting findings on how people use and value games as they age. This is a pretty common theme I’ve discussed before here and here and here so I won’t dwell on it.

What is particularly useful is some of the data around families and video games. For example, results showed that while the classification system is fairly clear when it comes to G, PG, and R18+ classifications, many parents are confused about the meanings of M and M15+ classifications. Taking advice from classification for purchasing decisions is far from universal, as well.

DA 16, p. 23

DA 16, p. 23

When looking at data like this, it is of course important to look at the methods and methodologies behind he research. This was an empirical study (meaning it was based on observation), with an online survey using the Nielsen Your Voice Panel (p. 26). Importantly, the sample size was 1274 households and 3398 individuals within those households. At face value this is a pretty good sample size – it’s not like they interviewed half a dozen of their best mates at the bar. This is a fairly representative sample; i.e., the people surveyed are likely to represent the broader Australian population pretty well, as long as they were careful about certain demographic factors (surveyed people in different locations; having he right proportions of different ages, for example).

However, looking a bit closer, there might be some problems with the sample: what we call ‘selection bias’. In other words, all the people were by definition individuals who have computers and an internet connection. This probably also has class connotations: this group might be more middle-class. What about people who don’t have home PCs or devices that they use to answer surveys like this? Some of these voices might not be heard, which might be seen as compromising the rigour of the research.

Overall, though, this is a great dataset that gives a snapshot of where games sit in the Australian cultural landscape at the moment. It is particularly useful because data can now be compared with multiple years of similar research, which gives us more of a ‘longitudinal’ (long-term) perspective. Reading the full report is strongly encouraged: its very accessible and readable, and will undoubtedly confirm some things and surprise readers in others. (Check page 17 for a random guest speaker!) If nothing else, take a moment to watch this super-cute video which demonstrates how games can go ‘beyond fun':


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