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Half of Casual Gamers Are 50 or Older

by Rainier on Oct. 4, 2006 @ 10:17 a.m. PDT

According to a survey made by casual game developer PopCap Games, of the estimated 150 million consumers who play family-friendly, non-violent puzzle, word and simple action games on the computer regularly, almost half of them are age 50 or older.

Among players of casual games who are age 50 or older, 74% cited cognitive workouts (mental exercise), 86% noted stress relief, and 62% chose memory strengthening, as benefits they’d experienced from playing such games. Further, fully 32% of respondents 50 or older said the games distract them from chronic pain/fatigue, and nearly one in ten subjects said they derive actual pain relief from playing. In addition to playing the games primarily for mental and physical benefits rather than pure entertainment, older game players had distinctly different views and habits relating to when, how much and which kinds of casual games they play. Of the nearly 2,200 consumers who took the survey, 1,040 were 50 or older, amounting to 47% of the overall respondents; fully 19% of survey respondents were age 60 or older.

Older vs. Younger Casual Games Players

Players age 50 or older enjoy casual games considerably more frequently and for longer periods than their younger counterparts; 65% of players age 50 and up say they play the games on a daily basis, compared to less than half of younger players. 31% of older gamers say they play for 10 or more hours per week, compared to 25% of younger players. In response to the question “when do you play casual games?” older players chose “in the morning, before the day begins” 23% of the time, while younger players selected that choice just 16% of the time. The most popular answer to that question, among both older (49%) and younger (52%) players, was “weekday evenings.”

Motives For Playing: While the percentage of older players who noted “stress relief” as a reason for playing casual games was slightly lower than that of survey respondents overall (86% vs. 89%), older players chose several other reasons more often than their younger counterparts. “Distraction from chronic pain/fatigue” (32% vs. 23%), “memory strengthening” (62% vs. 55%) and “cognitive exercise” (74% vs. 73%) were among the benefits cited more frequently by older players. Further, when asked to choose the single most important reason for playing, those age 50 or older chose “entertainment” even less frequently than younger players (16% vs. 21%); top responses to that question from among the subjects age 50 and up were “stress relief/relaxation” (39%) and “mental workout” (21%). In general, 86% of older survey respondents said that they felt playing casual games offered them physical and/or mental health benefits, compared to 74% of under-50 respondents.

“I am in my fifties and I use casual word and puzzle games on the computer as well as recommending them to my patients,” said Dr. Carl Arinoldo, a Stony Brook NY-based psychologist of 25 years and an author and expert on stress management. “I find that these types of games are wonderful as a stress management tool, while at the same time providing excellent cognitive exercise.” Dr. Arinoldo surmised that older players’ motives for playing were influenced by a growing awareness of the importance of “mental calisthenics” for maintaining a healthy mind. “While they may not choose ‘entertainment’ as the primary reason for playing, it seems reasonable to assume that older players of these games are likely to recognize the benefits of cognitive exercise more readily than younger consumers,” he said. “When you’re 65 or 70 and you play a game of Bookworm or Bejeweled, you’re more likely to identify improvements in your mental acuity that might go unnoticed by younger people.”

Leisure Time Priorities: When asked to identify “important” leisure time activities from among nearly two dozen common activities listed, overall survey respondents picked “playing casual computer games” (75%) more than any other choice, including “reading a book, newspaper or magazine” (73%), “spending time with friends or family” (70%), “watching TV or movies” (69%) or “listening to music or the radio” (57%). While those top two responses were also chosen most often by older survey respondents (with 77% and 75% respectively), other leisure time priorities varied significantly between 50+ and under-50 players. The third, fourth and fifth choices of older players were “watching TV or movies” (68%), “spending time with friends or family” (65%), and “listening to music or the radio” (49%). Among under-50 consumers the three most popular choices were “spending time with friends or family” (74%), “playing casual computer games” (73%) and both “watching TV or movies” and “reading a book, newspaper or magazine” (tied with 71% each). On a related question, 16% of survey respondents age 50 or older chose “playing casual computer games” as their most important leisure-time activities, compared with 10% of younger respondents.

Finally, the types of casual games enjoyed by each age group were significantly different.

Only 18% of subjects 50 or older selected simple action games as one of their genre preferences, compared to 50% of respondents under the age of 50. Likewise, 17% of under-50 survey respondents signified simple simulations like Railroad Tycoon as a genre they enjoyed, while only 4% of those 50 and older chose that category. On the other hand, 57% of older players listed card games as a game genre they like to play, compared to 46% of those under age 50. Puzzle (87%), Arcade (69%) and Word games (58%) were the top three genre choices among survey respondents under the age of 50, while the top three choices among those age 50 and over were Puzzle (84%), Word (66%) and Card games (57%).

This international research was conducted by Information Solutions Group ( on behalf of PopCap Games. The overall results are based upon online surveys completed by 2,191 randomly selected respondents, including 1,040 people age 50 or older. The survey occurred between the dates of August 11th and August 21st 2006. In theory, in 19 cases out of 20, the results will differ by no more than 1.9 percentage points, and +/- 2.9 for a sample of 1,040 consumers age 50 or older from what would have been obtained by seeking out and polling all visitors age 18 and over. Smaller subgroups reflect larger margins of sampling error. In addition to sampling error, there may exist other sources of error. For example, variations in the order of questions or wording within the questionnaire may contribute to different results.

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