Study Looks At Online Gaming Habits

When it comes to online gaming, there’s a new champion in town. Of those who play games on the Web, women over 40 play most often and spend the greatest number of hours per week doing so, beating out both men and teens, according to AOL Games’ “Casual Games Report,” conducted by Digital Marketing Services (DMS).

The study, a nationwide online survey of more than 3,600 casual game players (i.e., those who have played online games within the last three months), uncovered additional surprising results about men and women’s attitudes and behavior regarding online games. Adults, for example, were more likely than teens to play online games everyday, and more adults than teens have stayed up all night playing games on the Web.

Women Over 40, the Obsessive Gamers

Even though men spend more time on the Internet each week than women (23.2 vs. 21.6 hours), female game-players over 40 spend the most hours per week playing online games (9.1 hours or 41 percent of their online time vs. 6.1 hours – 26 percent of their online time – for men). These women were also more likely to play online games every day than men or teens of either gender.

The social interaction is clearly an appealing aspect of online game play for this group. Of the respondents who said they’ve formed friendships through their game playing, more than one in five women over 40 said they had extended that friendship to an offline relationship.

Despite busy schedules, female gamers over 40 make time for their preferred hobby. Twenty-eight percent of them play games between midnight and 5:00 a.m., considerably more than men or teenage game-players. In fact, nearly half of these women (44 percent) said that they spend less time watching TV or movies, reading, exercising or spending time outside as a result of their online gaming habits. And why do they play online games? “It relieves stress,” was the answer for 62 percent.

“The results of this study mirror trends that we see on AOL Games regarding who’s playing and when,” said Matthew Bromberg, General Manager, AOL Games. “While teens and young men have the reputation of playing games for hours on end, the reality is that it’s their mothers who are far more likely to exhibit this type of behavior – just with different games. Women today juggle more responsibilities than ever, and online games provide a great outlet to relieve stress, interact with a community, and just have fun – all according to their own schedules.”

Mars vs. Venus

While female gamers’ top reasons for playing online games were for enjoyment or to relieve stress, male game players were far more likely than women – 35 percent vs. 29 percent – to say that they like the competition factor of Internet gaming. Additionally, more men than women said that they play to increase their skill levels.

The type of games that men and women play varies as well. Significantly more male players prefer casino, arcade and sports games then females. Women players, however, have a much stronger preference for word and puzzle games then men. Males were also more likely than females to play online games for money.

The Generation Gap

Another unexpected finding: Nearly twice as many adults who play games said that they have played for more than eight consecutive hours than did their teenage counterparts. Similarly, more adult players have stayed up all night playing games than teens.

At 7.4 hours per week, however, teenage players still find plenty of time to go online to play games. In fact, half of all teen players said they spend more time playing games than reading, and more than one in four said they spend more time playing than they do on their homework.

Top Gaming Cities

AOL Games’ “Casual Games Report” also measured the habits of online gamers in ten major U.S. cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Detroit.

Among the findings:

* Major Gaming Cities: At approximately eight hours per week, Atlanta and Boston residents spend the most time per week playing online games. While Atlanta players seem to be most in need of a stress-reliever – approximately 60 percent of those in Atlanta said they play games to eliminate stress – Boston players appear to be more relaxed. Their top reason for playing games was simply because “it’s fun.”
* Most Relaxed: Detroit was the only market in which less than half of its respondents use online games to relieve stress.
* Bored (but Friendly): When asked why they play online games, nearly 65 percent of Dallas players said “to alleviate boredom.” Dallas is also one of the friendliest cities. Dallas gamers were among the most likely to develop friendships with other game players.
* Competitive Spirit: San Francisco had one of the highest percentages of respondents who said they play online games because they enjoy the competition – although that competition often paved the way for romance. More San Francisco gamers reported developing romantic interests through online gaming than almost any other city.
* Card Sharks: Washington, D.C. players were among the highest to use online games as a means of preparing for a trip to Las Vegas or another gambling destination. Boning up on blackjack can also be very time-consuming. D.C. had one of the highest percentages of game players who missed an appointment such as a date, a doctor’s appointment or a job interview because of their online gaming hobby.

Methodology: This survey was conducted from December 14, 2003, through January 12, 2004, through OpinionPlace, an online research site operated by DMS. OpinionPlace utilizes real-time, randomized assignment of respondents to surveys based on a scientifically proven process. A total of 3,613 respondents were interviewed. The screening qualifications for this study were males and females who have played online games within the last three months.

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