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Self-Identification: Which Americans Call Themselves Gamers

Posted Sep 28, 2020

Several years of research have proven that gaming (especially on mobile) is no longer a niche market. What we once thought of who “gamers” are has been completely upended. The truth is not everyone who plays games identifies as a gamer and the definition of “gamer” can vary from person to person. That being said, advertisers should look into who they consider to be gamers, and is it up to date with the current audience of active and engaged mobile gamers. 

AdColony’s Modern Mobile Gamer study revealed that while 78.2% of respondents are playing occasionally or more frequently, 78.9% are not self-identifying as gamers. Just because someone doesn’t self-identify as a “gamer” doesn’t mean they’re not playing games. To truly understand the value of the mobile gaming audience, we have to look at the audience from multiple angles and perspectives. Here are some highlights from the Modern Mobile Gamer Report:

Millennials are the most likely to self-identify gamers
Those born between 1986 and 1995 (mid and younger millennials) are far more likely to self-identify as gamers, 22.5% more likely than their Gen Z counterparts, and 63.4% more likely than older millennials and Gen X. Gen X and millennials were the first generations to grow up with game consoles and PCs in their homes, and it was a frequent pastime. They view gaming as a normal hobby, evidenced by their propensity to identify as gamers. 

Gen Z is almost 5% more likely to play mobile games than their closest millennial age group, but almost 1/5th less likely to identify as gamers. This could be because they consider gaming so normal that it’s simply not worth a label. Many barely remember a time before smartphones, and consoles were ubiquitous for them. 

Gaming is not exclusive to one socioeconomic group
The largest group of those who self-identify as gamers are actually in the $250,000+ per year household income bracket, with 29.4% of this group saying yes, they are gamers. The next highest being the lowest income bracket — sub $50,000 per year. This tells us that gaming is not an activity that is exclusive to one particular socioeconomic group. It finds purchase in every income bracket. The results confirm this when we look at frequent mobile gamers by income level, and put aside whether they self-identify or not.

The highest earners are playing more frequently than those further down the income brackets, with the lowest incidence of “several times per day” coming in the middle of the household-income pack. It’s worth noting, though, that more than half of those earning $150,000 to $199,000 per year are still playing mobile games once a day or more. The general trend is clear: As household income increases, so too does the frequency of playing mobile games, and the percentage of frequent players among those earning from $150,000 to $250,000+ per year also increases after small drop-offs from the lowest income bracket.

The South has the highest share of self-identified gamers
Results from the study revealed that few Midwesterners identify as gamers. Likewise, in the Northeast, a region of the country where public transport tends to be well-established, respondents were more likely than those in the Midwest to identify themselves as gamers, perhaps because of all that time on the subway/train/bus idly matching-3 and finding words.

Still, it was not as common as we saw in the South or West. On the other side of the country, we see the second-highest incidence of self-identified gamers. We were surprised by the South coming out higher than all the other regions. Like the midwest, the South is generally less inclined toward public transport and is much more cars-and-highways when it comes to commutes. We sincerely hope no one is playing mobile games while driving!

People love Puzzle and Word games, regardless of where they live
An average of 37% and 27% of respondents play Puzzle and Word games, which is unsurprising. The categories are incredibly popular, with apps like Wordscapes from PeopleFun, Best Fiends from Seriously, and dozens of hypercasual puzzle games taking up the Apple and Google Top 500 apps on any given day. Word games are popular for players on the west coast and in the Northeast, while Midwesterners love Puzzle titles.

Western and Southern gamers all meet or beat the national average for enjoying more traditional gaming categories like ​Action, Adventure, RPGs ​, and​ Strategy. Southerners also score the highest for ​Simulation​ and are up there on ​Sports​. The Midwest under-indexes on many of the traditional gaming genres, but Midwesterners can’t hide their love of​ Casino, Educational, Family, Puzzle, and Simulation​ games. While Northeasterners love ​Action ​games more than any other group, and they absolutely adore Racing​ games but they’re also the most into casual ​Arcade​ titles. ​Education​, ​Trivia ​, and​ Word games also are favorites for those in the Northeast.

Want to learn more about the most popular game genres? Download the full report! The Modern Mobile Gamer Report has data on how different types of games make people feel, who identifies as a gamer, and much more! 

About the Study
The survey was developed by AdColony and DISQO and distributed online to a nationally representative sample of DISQO Audience members within the United States via the Survey Junkie platform, which is wholly owned by DISQO. The survey was taken on both desktop and mobile devices, garnering a total of 1,208 responses over a fourteen-day period in Q2 of 2020. As each respondent was a member of DISQO’s 100% first-party opt-in research audience, responses were verified against fraud and were compiled against known and validated demographic information, enabling a rich, cohorted analysis by age, gender, education level, household income, and more. 

Join the Conversation
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