REPORT: Men and Women Equally Likely to Play Video Games, but Men are Twice as Likely to Call Themselves “Gamers”

REPORT: Men and Women Equally Likely to Play Video Games, but Men are Twice as Likely to Call Themselves "Gamers"

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 15, 2015) – About half of American adults (49%) say they ever play video games on a computer, TV, game console, or portable device like a cellphone, and 10% consider themselves to be “gamers,” according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

The data show that a nearly identical share of men (50%) and women (48%) report ever playing video games. Yet the survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults finds that 60% of adults believe that most people who play video games are men, including 57% of women who themselves play video games.

At the same time, men (15%) are more than twice as likely as women (6%) to call themselves “gamers.” And, among those ages 18 to 29, 33% of men say the term “gamer” describes them well, more than three times the proportion of young women (9%) who say the same.

The survey also finds a notable proportion of the population sees a link between violent video games and violent behavior. Four-in-ten adults agree with the statement “people who play violent video games are more likely to be violent themselves,” while a slight majority (53%) disagree. Women (47%) are more likely than men (31%) to agree, along with 32% of those who play video games and 26% of self-identified gamers.

“Among the general public, attitudes toward games themselves are complex and often uncertain,” said Maeve Duggan, a research associate at Pew Research Center. “The public is closely split on some debates surrounding the content of games and their impact on users. For instance, 26% of adults think most video games are a waste of time, while 24% do not think this is true.”

A similar pattern emerges on the question of whether or not video games help develop good problem solving and strategic thinking skills. Some 17% of adults think this is true of most games, while a nearly identical 16% think this is not true of most games.

Meanwhile, the survey finds that:

  • 23% of adults do not think games promote teamwork and communication, more than double the 10% who think most games do promote these qualities.
  • 30% of adults do not think most games are a better form of entertainment than TV, almost triple the 11% who think this is true.

The data show that the public is much less certain on other aspects of gaming, however.

  • Fully 47% of all adults are unsure if most video games portray minorities poorly
  • 40% are unsure if most video games portray women poorly.

Data from this analysis are based on a Pew Research Center telephone survey conducted June 10, 2015 through July 12, 2015 among a national sample of 2,001 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The survey was conducted by interviewers at Princeton Data Source under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

Among the other findings:

People who play video games are more likely than those who do not play to think positively about gaming: 

  • 25% of those who play video games (and 39% of self-identified gamers) think most video games help develop good problem solving and strategic thinking skills, compared with just 8% of those who do not play games.
  • 17% of those who play video games (and 34% of those who call themselves gamers) think most games are a better form of entertainment than TV. This compares with just 5% of those who do not play games.
  • 15% of video game players (and 28% of self-described gamers) think most games promote teamwork and communication. Just 6% of those without gaming experience agree.

Game players are also particularly likely to disagree with negative portrayals of video games: 

  • 35% of those who play video games (and 53% of those who identify as gamers) think most games are not a waste of time, compared with just 13% of those who do not play video games.
  • 33% of those who play video games (and 46% of self-described gamers) do not think minorities are portrayed poorly in most games; 9% of game players (and 10% of gamers) think most games do portray minorities poorly; and 61% of those who do not play video games are unsure what to think on this issue.
  • 26% of those who play video games (and 35% of self-identified gamers) do not think women are portrayed poorly in most games; 16% of game players (and 24% of self-identified gamers) think most games do portray women poorly; and 55% of those who do not play video games are unsure what to think on this topic.

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