When you picture a gamer in your head, who do you think of? You may not have a concrete image of what a gamer looks like at all, or you may be picturing a particular age group or type of person. Whatever your image of a gamer looks like, you may be surprised to learn that the gaming landscape is much more diverse than you think. No longer is gaming dominated by a single gender; women and non-binary folks make up a much larger percentage of gaming demographics than you might imagine.
When it comes to age groups, though, you might think you’re on firmer ground. After all, it’s mainly younger people that play video games, right? As we age, we move away from video games towards other hobbies that don’t require as much from us in terms of twitch reflexes and muscle memory, right? Well, you’d be surprised on that front, too. The biggest age group in gaming might surprise you, so let’s take a look at a new study that shows who’s really playing games in our society.
According to ExpressVPN, millennials are actually bigger gamers than Gen Z. A study conducted by the VPN firm shows that 68% of millennial respondents admit to playing video games on a daily basis, while 58% of Gen Z gamers admit to the same thing. Granted, that’s not a colossal difference; Gen Z gamers are still in the majority. Still, you might imagine that gaming tapers off among millennials as they age and find less spare time for hobbies, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
This is also an antidote to the stereotype of the trash-talking teenage gamer in their room, shouting insults at other Call of Duty players into the wee small hours of the morning. Millennials also admitted to spending longer in each gaming session than Gen Z gamers did, although you might be surprised to learn that 18% of those aged 46 to 55 also admitted to spending more than 24 hours in a single gaming session. What could they possibly be playing for that long?
The ExpressVPN study also shows us that Gen Z gamers say they’re less likely to play games at night. You might imagine that this would be something millennials would struggle with more; after all, millennials are more likely to have regular jobs that demand regular sleep schedules, while Gen Z gamers are still in higher education or just getting started in the world of work, so they theoretically have more time to spend on video games. However, the data gathered by ExpressVPN doesn’t bear this out.
It’s also worth remembering, as ExpressVPN points out in its study, that millennials have better access to disposable income. This means they’re able to get a hold of games and systems more easily, while Gen Z gamers don’t yet have the jobs that might give them access to that kind of income. However, Gen Z might be behind the rise of mobile gaming; every Gen Z gamer is likely to have a smartphone, and the ExpressVPN study found that 70% of gaming happens on smartphones, which could be down to Gen Z’s desire to play games on their existing platforms (and free-to-play ones, at that).
If we take the study’s conclusions as true, then it suggests older gamers are more populous than younger ones. Why might this be the case? Well, if we look at another finding from the study, we can get some clues. The ExpressVPN study also found that 79% of gamers play “retro games”, which the study appears to define as games from the 80s and 90s. This suggests that both millennials and Gen Z gamers, as well as older folks, are enjoying those games.
However, according to the study, 38% of gamers noted that “nostalgia” was their primary reason for playing retro games, which could give us a clue as to why more millennial gamers appear to exist than Gen Z gamers. Millennials are looking for a window into their childhood, and what better way to get that than by firing up a round of Super Mario Kart (which is, according to the study, one of the most popular retro games)?
The study doesn’t go into a significant amount of detail regarding why Gen Z gamers or millennials tend to play retro games. However, it does show that retro gamers play Super Mario Bros the most, followed by Tetris, Pac-Man, Super Mario Kart, and The Legend of Zelda. Pac-Man’s presence on the list suggests that there’s also a nostalgia for the pre-console arcade era, when games were about as simple as they came and gaming was still considered a fairly niche hobby.
With more millennials playing games than Gen Z gamers (at least according to ExpressVPN’s study), it stands to reason that games would want to target millennial nostalgia. Indeed, this appears to be the case to a large degree; many franchises that originated in the 80s and 90s are either still running or being rebooted, while games are also being produced that specifically speak to millennial nostalgia (see the boomer shooter revival or 16-bit throwbacks like Sea of Stars). However, as Gen Z ages, we’re likely to see more games that are specifically targeting that generation’s gaming nostalgia instead. What will this mean? We’ll have to wait and see!