Nearly All US Teens, 53% of Adults Play Video Games

December 9, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Boomers & Older | Hispanic | Men | Technology | Videogames | Women | Youth & Gen X

Nearly all American teens (97%), and more than half of adults age 18+ (53%) say they play video games, and about one-in-five adults (21%) plays video games every day or almost every day, according to research from the Pew Internet Project.

Pew’s Annual Gadgets Survey also found that – independent of all other factors – younger adults are considerably more likely than older adults to play games, and the likelihood that an adult is a video gamer decreases significantly with age. Fully 81% of respondents 18-29 years old play games, while only 23% of respondents 65 years old and older report playing games.


Key demographic findings about video gamers:

  • Overall, men (55%) are slightly more likely than women (50%) to play any kind of digital game.
  • Urbanites (56%) are slightly more likely than rural-dwellers (47%) to play digital games.
  • There is no significant difference in game playing across income groups or between suburbanites and adults from other locales.
  • Some 57% of respondents with at least some college education play games, significantly more than high school graduates (51%) and those who have less than a high school education (40%).
  • Current students who are age 18 or older are avid players:, 76% of students (82% of full-time and 69% of part-time) report playing games, compared with 49% of non-students.
  • Internet users are significantly more likely to play games than those who are not online. Fully 75% of adults in the survey use the internet, and 64% of internet users play games. By comparison, just 20% of non-internet users play games.

Older Adults Play More Frequently

Almost half (49%) of all adult gamers reported playing games at least a few times a week, but Pew found that older gamers are more avid players.


Seniors, in particular, tend to play games more frequently:

  • 36% of gamers age 65+ say they play games everyday or almost everyday, compared with 19% of adults age 50-64, 20% of adults age 30-49, and 20% of adults age 18-29.
  • Senior gamers may play more frequently because they have more time to play than younger gamers, as 77% of senior gamers reported being retired.

Computers Most Popular Game-Playing Devices

Of the devices that can be used to play video games, Pew found that computers are the most popular devices overall among all adults:


  • 38% of adults report playing games on desktop or laptop computers.
  • 28% play on game consoles like an Xbox, PlayStation or Wii
  • 18% play on a cell phone, Blackberry or other handheld organizer
  • 13% play on portable gaming devices like a PSP, DS or Gameboy.

In contrast, game consoles are the favorite gaming hardware among teens age 12-17:

  • 89% of teen gamers use consoles to play games.
  • Teen gamers are no more likely than adult gamers to use computers to play games.
  • While adult gamers are more likely to play games on cell phones or Blackberries than on portable gaming devices, teen gamers show the opposite set of preferences, preferring the portable devices to cell phones.

Young adults, age 18-29, are the demographic group that is most likely to play games on any given device. However, the majority (61%) say they play games on consoles.

Among seniors, 19% of those age 65+ play games on computers, while only 2% use each of the other devices listed. Similarly, Americans ages 50-64 are much more likely to use computers than to use gaming consoles, cell phones (6%) or portable gaming devices (5%).


When looking specifically at gamers, these age-based preferences are even more distinct:

  • Nearly three-out-of-four gamers (73%) use computers to play, while just over half (53%) use game consoles.
  • Gamers 50+ are significantly more likely than younger age groups to use computers.
  • Middle-aged gamers, age 30-49, prefer to play on computers, but a significantly large percentage also plays on consoles.
  • Young adult gamers are the only age group to prefer playing on game consoles; three-fourths (75%) of 18-29-year-old gamers play on consoles.

The findings also indicate that certain demographic groups – men, minorities and parents – use some devices more:

  • Men are significantly more likely than women to play games on gaming consoles: 35% of adult men say they play games on a console compared with 21% of women.
  • Men and women are statistically equally likely to use all other gaming devices, including computers, cell phones, handheld organizers and portable gaming devices.
  • Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to play games on smaller, mobile gadgets.
  • While there is no statistically significant difference in game play between ethnic groups on computers or game consoles, blacks and Hispanics are significantly more likely than whites to use cell phones and portable gaming devices to play games.
  • One-quarter (25%) of blacks and 27% of Hispanics report using a cell phone or Blackberry to play games, while only 16% of whites reported doing so.
  • 18% of blacks and 21% of Hispanics use portable gaming devices, compared with 11% of whites who use these devices to play games.

Parents More Likely Gamers

Independent of other demographic categories, parents are more likely to play video games than non-parents. Two-thirds (66%) of parents or guardians of children age 17 or younger play games, compared with 47% of adult, non-parent gamers.

Parents are also more likely to play games on every kind of device we asked about than respondents who were not parents.

Additional findings about parents:

  • Just 31% of parents of teens say they play video games with their child at least some of the time
  • Younger parents are more likely than older parents to play games with their children. Four out of ten parents under age 40 (40%) play games with their children, compared with 25% of older parents.
  • Parents of younger teens (12-14 years old) are also more likely to play video games with their children than parents of older teens (15-17 years old), 34% vs. 27%.

Adults Less Likely than Teens to Play Online

Just under a quarter (23%) of all adults play games online, or – put another way – 43% of adult gamers play online games. Adults are much less likely to play games online than teens, as about 76% of all teens play games online and 79% of teen gamers play games online.

The research finds that, as with all games, younger adults are more likely to report playing games online than their older counterparts. Fully 43% of adults ages 18-29 play games online, compared with 26% of people ages 30-49, 13% of people ages 50-64 and 5% of those 65 and older.

Respondents who report playing games online tend to play more often than gamers who do not play games online:

  • The majority (59%) of online gamers play at least a few times a week, significantly more than the 41% of strictly offline gamers who play that often.
  • Those who play massive multiplayer online games (MMOGs) such as World of Warcraft, are even more likely to play frequently, as 89% play at least a few times a week.
  • Nearly half (49%) of MMOG players play every day or almost every day, while just one-in-four online gamers (26%) and 17% of offline gamers play as often.

Virtual Worlds and MMOGs Not So Popular Yet

Though there has been much media hype around virtual worlds, just 2% of gamers say they have ever visited a destination such as Second Life. Key findings:

  • Though there are no significant age or other demographic differences between adults who visit virtual worlds and those who do not, teens are significantly more likely to visit virtual worlds. One-in-ten teens and 11% of teen gamers reported visiting virtual worlds.
  • A total 6% of adults say they have created an avatar – or online representation of themselves, often used for participation in virtual worlds and in some online games and social networks.
  • Only 9% of gamers play these types of online games. Again, young adults are significantly more likely than average adults to play MMOGs, as 14% of 18-29-year-old gamers report playing
  • Teens are even more likely than young adults to play MMOGs, with 21% of teen gamers reporting MMOG play.

About the research: The Annual Gadgets Survey obtained telephone interviews – both landline and cell phone – with a nationally representative sample of 2,054 adults living in the continental United States. The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research International. The interviews were conducted in English by Princeton Data Source, LLC from October 24 to December 2, 2007.


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