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From an outside perspective, it can seem like the majority of gamers are teenagers or middle-aged men fighting it out in a violent virtual world. But that isn’t even remotely true, and I’ve got some interesting research to back that up!
A few months ago, ESA published their 2012 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry (a bit long-winded for a title, but the information makes up for it). And do you know what they found? Only 25% of gamers actually play those action games on a regular basis while 42% prefer the puzzles and strategy games. So who are the people shying away from the blood, violence, and craziness, and why does it still seem like those are the most popular games even when they aren’t?
Let’s start with who’s actually playing puzzle and strategy games. The short answer is everyone. Teenagers, professionals, young adults, older individuals, and even small kids gravitate to these. They work the mind, keep you interested, and there are just so many available that you’ll always find something new to try. You can play them during after work, in between meetings, while you’re doing laundry, etc., etc., etc. Unlike fighting games, where you pretty much have to dedicate a set amount of time to it (especially when you’re playing others), strategy games let you pick up and stop whenever you want. You can get the same experience of accomplishment as you can winning levels or besting another player in a fighting game without actually putting your life on hold just to do it.
So those are the reasons for most players, but access to games and the ability to play them wherever also explain why so many turn to these non-fighting options.
For those under 18, puzzle and strategy games are popular for many of the reasons already mentioned, but also because they’re parent approved, which means younger kids typically have access to the games in the first place. And when it comes to teenagers, they’re actually just as popular among guys as they are girls. Apparently, the idea that teenage boys only like violent games is a pretty steep misconception. The majority of male gamers under 18 still play non-fighting games more often than they do the violent ones.
For those over 18, outside of just being fun, puzzle and strategy games tend to work into adult life a whole lot more easily than fighting games do. You aren’t going to get the side-eye from your boss for playing puzzles on your break, but if you’re shooting things up on your smartphone in the employee lounge, you just might!
So with all of that (hopefully it wasn’t too much!), why does it still appear, at least to the average person, that every gamer is creating a virtual arsenal? I think it comes down to two things: the type of gamer that likes the fighting games and the marketing of those games.
What do I mean? Well, more often than not, someone who plays fighting games does so regularly. And by regularly, I mean a whole bunch. A few hours a day is nothing, and spending an entire evening (or pulling an all-nighter) isn’t unheard of. On the other hand, those who play strategy games do so in their spare time, typically for an hour or less a day. They often don’t call themselves a “gamer” per se, and they typically don’t let their world revolve around their favorite game or games. Those who play fighting games, however, often do, and therefore they draw more attention to themselves, despite making up a smaller percentage of those playing games.
Of course, the marketing of fighting games follow suit. Watch TV in the evening and you’re likely to see at least one commercial for the newest shoot ‘em up game. But have you ever seen a television ad for Collapse!? Probably not. Fighting games are often heavily marketed, giving the impression that they make up more of the industry than they actually do. And even when you compare the advertisement for a strategy game to the advertisement for the fighting game, the latter just tends to stand out more. Even the best SIMS commercial isn’t nearly as visually disruptive as the latest, eagerly awaited for World of Warcraft edition.
So who’s playing the non-fighting games you ask? Apparently, everybody. From young kids using games to learn about numbers, shapes, and colors, teenagers playing simulation games to pass the time between homework assignments, to professionals and families playing puzzle and strategy games to get a break from the daily grind, these types of games cross all demographics.