Games and Family Life
Video games are a source of family entertainment, with parents, children and grandparents all vying for the controls. Today’s parents increasingly view video games as a positive and often educational way to interact with their children. In fact, games in the “family entertainment” category are one of the most popular segments of the video game market. Parents now have a variety of resources available to help them monitor and evaluate games, ensuring that only the games they deem suitable make it into their children’s hands.
Fun for Every Generation
The generation that grew up playing the Atari and humming the tune of Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers is now in adulthood, many with children of their own. As this generation and the video game industry mature, these men and women are continuing to play video games, and their children and parents are joining them. The introduction of new games such as Harmonix’s Rock Band and consoles such as the Nintendo Wii further broaden the identity of a gamer to now embrace every demographic, from grandparents to toddlers.
According to the Entertainment Software Association’s (ESA) 2013 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry, the average gamer is 30 years old and has been playing for 13 years. Industry research reveals some other interesting demographic facts about gamers:
- Women – 45 percent of all players are women. In fact, adult women represent a greater portion of the game-playing population (31 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (19 percent).
- Social – 62 percent of gamers play games with others either online or in-person. Of those, 77 percent play with others at least one hour per week. A majority of gamers play games with their friends or family members: 16 percent play with parents, 42 percent play with friends, 16 percent play with their spouse or significant other and 32 play with other family members.
- Mobile – 36 percent of gamers play games on their smartphone, and 25 percent play on their wireless device.
Parents and Video Games
Parents are a growing segment of the game playing population. According to ESA’s 2013 Essential Facts report, 35 percent of parents play games with their children at least weekly. Parents also see several benefits of entertainment software, with 52 percent saying games are a positive part of their child’s life. 71 percent of parents believe that game play provides mental stimulation or education, 59 percent believe games encourage their family to spend time together, and 62 percent believe that game play helps their children connect with their friends.
When asked why they play games with their children, parents responded:
- Because it’s fun for the entire family (85 percent);
- Because they’re asked to (82 percent);
- Because it is a good opportunity to socialize with the child or to monitor game content (78 percent and 57 percent, respectively); and
- Because they enjoy playing video games as much as their child does (49 percent).
Family Entertainment Games
According to research compiled by the NPD Group, on average, approximately six games were sold every second of every day of 2012. Games in the “family entertainment” genre accounted for 8.6 percent of all games sold in 2012.
Many family video games reprise characters from popular family movies like DreamWorks Animation’s “Shrek.” The video game Shrek Treasure Hunt, by TDK Mediactive, enables players to take on the role of Shrek through ten related games. Other family video games capitalize on sports. Traditional family games are even getting into the mix with titles like Hasbro Family Game Night, published by Electronic Arts, where parents play classic board games such as Sorry!, Yahtzee and Battleship with their children on the Nintendo Wii console. A number of titles developed for Microsoft’s motion-sensing Xbox360 Kinect system also offer family-friendly games, such as Game Party: In Motion, which features 16 different mini games including horseshoes, darts and table hockey. Microsoft’s Kinect: Disneyland Adventures offers families a chance to take a virtual tour of the California theme park, meet and interact with some of Disney’s famous characters, and play a collection of 12 mini games based on well-known park rides.
Many parents and teachers take advantage of the educational value that the “edutainment” genre of video games provides. Edutainment games embed typical core studies into video games for kids, so they can hone in on math, science and other skills while playing. One example of an edutainment video game is DimensionM, a role-playing video game created by Tabula Digita in which students must answer rapid-fire math questions as they take part in 3-D adventures.
Monitoring Video Game Content
Parents take an active role in reviewing the computer and video games their children play. According to ESA’s research, 93 percent of parents pay attention to the content of the games their children play, and parents are involved in the purchase or rental of games 89 percent of the time. In addition, 85 percent of all parents (gamer and non-gamer alike) who vote say that they, not government, retailers or game publishers, should take the most responsibility for monitoring children’s exposure to games that may have content inappropriate for minors. Moreover, almost two-thirds of parents agree that it is not the role of government to regulate game sales in an attempt to protect children from video game content.
Parents use the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s (ESRB) rating system when making game choices. ESRB ratings enable parents to make informed decisions about the computer and video games they choose for their families, based both on age-appropriateness and content descriptors that indicate game elements that either factored into the rating or may otherwise be of interest. ESRB also provides rating summaries, which offer more detailed information about a games’ content and the rationale for why it received a particular rating, and interactive elements, which inform parents about a game’s interactive aspects, including whether it shares a user’s location with other users or if their personal information may be shared with third parties. Additionally, ESRB offers a mobile website and rating search app that allow parents to find additional information about a game by taking a photo of a game box or entering the game’s title on their mobile phone.
The entertainment software industry has universally adopted ESRB's rating system; retailers support it and parents and opinion leaders consider it the best entertainment rating system in the country. Independent surveys conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates found that 85 percent of parents with children who play video games are aware of ESRB's rating system, and 88 percent believe it is helpful in choosing games for their children. Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) credited the video game industry with “outpacing” other entertainment industries in curtailing the marketing of mature-rated products to children. In fact, the FTC’s latest undercover shopper survey revealed that video game retailers are the strictest and most effective in enforcing age rating policies. According to the survey, retailers prevented 87 percent of attempted purchases of Mature-rated games by children under the age of 17. The U.S. Supreme Court also affirmed the value of ESRB in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association/ESA. The Court noted in its decision that ESRB largely meets the needs of parents who wish to monitor their children’s game play. Parents can find more information on ESRB’s Web site at www.esrb.org or the mobile site, m.esrb.org.
Many parents also take advantage of parental controls that are included in game consoles, and 86% of parents believe that the parental controls available on all new video game consoles are useful. For example, on Sony's handheld PlayStation Portable console and its PlayStation 3 console, parents can block games and movies they do not want their children to view. Microsoft, with the support of the Parent Teacher Association, unveiled a new tool for its Xbox 360 that allows parents to limit the amount of time kids spend on video games. Parents can learn more about parental controls here.
Parents have also created their own resources for video game information. Andrew Bub maintains GamerDad.com, a site at which he and other volunteer parents rate video games. Gamer parents and professional writers provide articles, community forums, and updated video game reviews to keep parents informed about specific video games.
- 91 - The percentage of video games rated by ESRB in 2012 that received ratings of “Everyone (E),” “Teen (T)” or “Everyone 10+ (E10+).”
- 13 - The number of years the average game player has been playing computer and video games.
- 88 - The percentage of parents who believe ESRB's rating system is helpful in choosing games for their children.