Will We Get Too Old for Video Games?

See that picture? That’s the image that comes up to this day whenever a major news publication is talking about video games. Good news, bad news, anything in between, it’s this picture of two kids staring into a glowing screen, controllers in hand, the pair of them assumed to have their brains melting out of their ears.

That’s the perception that still exists among the older generation toward gamers, and though it is fading over time, it makes me wonder where the future of gaming is heading, and how old is “too old” to game, if there even is a such a classification.

Right now, the average age of a gamer is 37. That’s important because it says a large amount of adults play video games, but even more so when you look at WHY the average age is 37.

If you’re 37 now, that means you were born in 1974. This is significant because Atari came out in 1977, and was made until 1984. The Nintendo Entertainment system came out in 1985, meaning from ages 3 and up, this generation had access to a home video game console, and they are in fact the first ones to have had that opportunity.

As happy as you could be in 1985.

The fact that they’re still playing games to this day implies that gaming is NOT a hobby you grow out of. Those over forty for the most part don’t get it, because video games were not a part of their childhood. Therefore, it will always be viewed as a childish activity as when THEY had kids, they grew up playing N64 and Sega and the like, while none of the parents’ adult friends played anything of the sort.

The data appears to suggest that once a gamer, always a gamer. We’ll obviously have to see how things progress over the next few decades, as these 37 year olds are the first ones to truly grow up with video games. Will they still be playing with they’re 50? 60? Even 70?

The larger question is when the PERCEPTION of gaming as childish is going to change. Even the younger set who doesn’t game can write off the activity as a sign of immaturity, somehow classifying it below other leisure activities like TV, movies or watching sports.

This may have been a fair judgment when games were less complex and more overtly silly. But with titles progressing to be fully fledged stories with plots and characters often more compelling than those we see on TV or in film (Red Dead, LA Noire, Mass Effect, hell, even Portal), they’re just as legitimate a source of entertainment as anything else.

The most convincing western I’ve seen in 20 years. I just happened to be controlling it.

The only obstacle I see that would say that yes, you can get too old for gaming, is the time commitment. I’m 24 now. I work, I have a girlfriend, but I also have free time. I am not planning a wedding or slaving away at an office until 8PM or have four children running around the house, taking up every spare second I have. The fact is, as you get older, you take on more and more responsibilities that just don’t allow for a hobby as time consuming as gaming. Many parents of young kids I know barely have time to sit down and watch a movie or TV show, much less try to get through a 12 hour Assassin’s Creed campaign. Such a thing could take months, and you would only be able to get through a fraction of worthwhile titles in a year.

I think part of getting older is just having less free time in general. That means less gaming yes, but it also means less of everything you like to do. You have to budget your time more efficiently, and when it comes down to it, gaming sometimes has to be shelved. Or if your priorities are reversed, you can play World of Warcraft instead of taking care of your kid, but that’s how you end up on the six o’clock news, a story I’ve actually seen tragically repeated a few times.

So no, I don’t think you can be too old to game, as that’s now equivalent to saying you’re too old to watch a TV show or a movie or read a magazine. Video games are finally approaching a level playing field in terms of entertainment legitimacy (a recent Supreme Court decision announced that they are considered “art”) and the public’s perception will change about gaming as it becomes more mainstream and spans all age groups.

Growing older might limit your time with video games, but it doesn’t mean it has to end it. Just wait until your kids grow up and you’ll always have a 2P around.

  • Josh

    well said.

  • Gale

    My Dad’s 42 and I honestly can’t see him stopping gaming anytime soon, he’s always playing the new releases and he sets aside some time for himself when possible to game. However I wonder what the figures are like for female gamers, I can’t imagine older women playing as much

  • Tim

    I’m 43 and have been gaming since the 80s when we got a Mattel Intellivision for Christmas. I’m employed, married, and have 2 kids (18 & 12, and they both game with me).

    I don’t think it there will ever be a “grow out of gaming” phase…I think it will be, as you said, just a change to the way entertainment and hobbies are looked at.

    Much like the way rock and roll and comic books were dismissed for several generations as “juvenile”, eventually those generations were replaced by the ones that adopted them. It will be the same with video games.

  • Johnny Boy

    Being 34 and a gamer all my life, I fully agree with your analysis and conslusions.

    I would like to maybe add a precision to this. When you say “I think part of getting older is just having less free time in general. That means less gaming yes, but it also means less of everything you like to do” I kinda disagree.

    As you grow older, you have more responsablilities, but your interest varies as well. Games becomes one of many things you enjoy. Spending time and playing with your kids may seem like a dull chore at 24, but is quite fullfilling to tell the truth. I may never have the time to play as much as I use to, but I really enjoy it when I can. In conclusion, It does mean less gaming, but not less everything I like to do!

    Common, I just wrote on this blog, so proof that there will always be a fanboy inside of me who keeps track of all the cool games and movies to come out. I juste go outside a little more often now 😉

  • jrock

    I agree with everything you said, but I don’t think you have a firm grasp of what the word average means. For the average age to be 37 there must be a very large amount of people in their 40s, 50s and 60s playing video games. I don’t have any statistics on hand, but I think it is safe to assume that the majority of children that are old enough to play video game are playing video games. So there would have to be a large amount of older gamers to raise the average age so high. The one thing you need to remember is that the term video gamer doesn’t necessarily mean hardcore gamer. Anyone that even plays casual games on the internet could be considered a gamer. Which is what I think a lot of older people do, regardless of their again. The various Nintendo systems also attract people of all ages. It would be cool to get a breakdown of what ages play what. I have a feeling not many old people own PS3s.

  • I’m 36, not married, no kids, 9-5 job, so I’m probably the perfect example of an older gamer with the free time to do so. However, I usually only play once a week, with my friends on Halo. I definitely think there is a correlation with growing up during the Atari/NES/PS1 era but I also deal with the stigma, and embarassment, of people knowing I still game at my age, even though its only on occasion.

    I’m part of an older gamers community (linked in my name), many of whom are married, with kids. They seem to be able to find the time to game on a regular basis. We have leagues and tournaments, and set nights of gaming so I think having a schedule helps with that. I think it also helps with their spouses to have a set night to say “I want to game but every other time is the family’s”. I’m sure it also helps to play with people in similar and, as you stated, Paul, to “budget your time efficiently.”

  • cyranoone

    born 82, makes me 28 still playing to this day, thought taste in games has changed.

  • xXburekXx

    although i myself am only 17 i do think that people will be playing when they are 60 70 or 80, it wont be long until there is a president (or in my case prime minister) that is a gamer

  • Bernie

    I’m 56 and still playing games. Can’t think of a reason I should stop anytime.

  • Jeff

    If the average age is 37 and the youngest you could play games were one (let’s just say) then that means the oldest gamers would have to be somewhere around 74, right?

  • I’m 30. Have a wife, kid, full time job, I get all of my bills paid on time, keep the house clean (okay, not always), hang out with friends and family, and have been had a game system in my household since I was born. No exception. I have my priorities straight and do all that I’m supposed to do FIRST. Gaming, though still a very important part of my life (as is drawing and music) comes second.

    Just my little testimony.

  • *had. Not BEEN had.

  • Flavia

    Just one thing those over forty get it… I’m 42, I had an Atari, a Super Nintendo… Now I have a PS3, love Mass Effect 2 (played ME 2 twice on the PC) and Red Dead (PS3), had fun with La Noire, Assassin’s Creed, Fifa 11, Portal 2, and the list goes on and on… I believe I’ll always will love gaming!

  • Fred

    I am 67 and still playing games. Don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Hand/eye coordination not what it used to be but that doesn’t stop me.

  • Simon

    I’m 43, and I’ve been gaming ever since I pumped my first quarter into a Donkey Kong machine at a local mall arcade. Now I mostly play via PC but I have had my share of consoles over the years, several of which I still own and occasionally blow the dust off.

    Gaming is definitely driven by when you grew up, but not entirely. My 64 year old mother plays Mario Kart with her grandson (and sometimes without, but she wouldn’t openly admit it) and more recently got addicted to classic games like Pac-Man and Galaxian.

    I don’t see myself ever giving up on gaming. I put in less time than when I was 20, but I did a lot of things more when I was 20.

  • Flavia

    Just read some of the other comments and seen that Gale mentioned “I can’t imagine older women playing as much”. I had already made my comment and didn’t think it was relevant, but I’m a woman, 42 and still playing (see original comment above).

  • DrunkRobot

    I’m 47 and I’ve been playing since 1978. Unfortunately, I think for many players my age the decision about when to stop playing is being made for us.

    The first problem is most people my age don’t play AAA games, which wasn’t a problem when all games were single player. But as multiplayer grows, I’m slowly being squeezed out of the market. I don’t have enough friends or family members to play multiplayer on a consistent basis. I want to play when I feel like playing, not only when I can organize a group of people to play. I played in public matches for a while but the lack of skill based matchmaking paired with way too many overaggressive players made it a horrible experience I want nothing more to do with.

    The other problem is despite the older demographics of the core audience and that 40 percent is now female, AAA games are not being designed for these players. For the past 5 to 7 years, AAA publishers and developers have been targeting most of their games at the shooter and action audience. But the demographics of the shooter action audience skews much younger, as well as predominately male. They also have drastically different preferences than older players. So the games currently do not reflect the diverse preferences of the older audience. They don’t reflect the maturity level of the older audience and increasingly, the “normal” difficulty modes do not reflect the twitch reflex, visual and auditory abilities of the older audience. Listen to comments Bioware has made about Mass Effect 3:

    Casey Hudson: project director – Normal is the new Veteran” in Mass Effect 3, effectively making it the most challenging game in the Mass Effect trilogy. Corey Gaspur: new lead designer – You’re fighting a force that’s a lot more intelligent this time around, and a lot more punishing. The game is just intense even when you play it on Normal. Christina Norman: former lead designer: On those harder difficulty levels we can make the enemies exhibit specific behaviors more often, or even give them new behaviors that we think will work for a harder difficulty level, but which won’t work for an easier one.

    Clearly, “punishing” game play is not targeted at 37 year old players. It’s targeted at 18 – 23 yr. old male shooter fans. I think most older players are probably like me and as I’ve grown older, my interest in playing extremely difficult or challenging games has steadily decreased. It’s not that I can’t play difficult games, but I’ve reached the point where the difficulty sucks every second of fun and enjoyment out of the experience. I’m much more interested in story telling, exploration, treasure hunting, etc… So when you combine the demographically misaligned game design with multiplayer slowly replacing single player, I think I’ll be forced into a core gaming retirement home in the next few years.

  • very well put, sir. i agree. im 27 and i’ll never stop playing games. hell, im going to school to get into the gaming industries.

  • Windy Stroud

    I am a 46 year old woman with a husband and 2 boys. I have to totally agree with # DrunkRobot. I have spent many , many hours playing when I was in my 20’s married but not kids. It was so easy to just order a pizza instead of cooking , and staying up nearly all night playing Zelda because it was the weekend and I knew I didn’t have to get up early. Both my boys and husband are gamers and we still find a few to play together. Most recently “Fruit Ninja” of all games. LOL I don’t look for a game that is so difficult that I get frustrated playing , I want to play for the fun and not want to throw my controller because I just battled for 45 min. only to loose because the timer on the oven just went off and distracted me. I will have to get my boys to read your response #DrunkRobot , maybe they will understand why I can not commit so much time to gaming as an older player..

  • At 35 with 2 kids, time is definitely an issue. The way I see it, however, is that gaming is quality family time. Yes, this means I end up playing a lot of Lego titles and tend to avoid lengthy games, but I still get to play.

    As for gaming when I’m 70, I can’t wait to retire so I can put in 70 hours on whatever mind-blowingly epic games they’ll have out by then.

  • Kazgul

    50 and love it, started off with a zx spectrum in about 1975

  • KingOfArcadia

    Well, I’m 39. I have two great boys aged 7 & 4, an awesome wife, a fulltime job, my own home, and I’ve been gaming since the Atari 2600 days. Since I normally play games rated ‘M’ most of my gaming time comes between the hours of 10:00PM – 2:00AM when everyone else is asleep. My wife & kids game but they’re mostly into the Lego games, although the kids like to play co-op with me from time to time.

    The only thing I’ve really noticed that I’ve given up in order to make time to game is network TV, and really the less a person watches that crap the better as far as I can tell. I’ve also always been a night owl, so only getting 6 hours of sleep a night doesn’t bug me at all.

    And yeah, playing around 3 – 4 hours per night on a game like Fallout 3 takes a LONG time to complete – seems to me I had that one on the go from November to April a couple years back!

  • mattheww

    I have such wonderful news for you!

    YES, as you get older you DO have less time to play video games, at first. But then your marriage turns arid and there are hours to kill each evening and bottles too, anywhere but near the missus (who even during her increasingly-sporadic thaws no longer offers much to work with, though there is certainly more of her.) Eventually you go looking for trouble or it finds you; either way your chances of getting caught are 100%. Next thing you know you are alone in a one-bedroom, forty-four and too beat after your long days to do much carousing, and what exactly do you have to offer anyone anyway at that point anyway? Meager passion? Bountiful remorse? Creeping obsolescence? Best just stay home and get hammered.

    So as you can see, there’s a lot more time for gaming in your future than you imagine, you ol’ gloomy gus!

    You’re welcome.

  • majinraven

    I am only 18, and I love my video games, it is an escape from stress and reality. I don’t delve in them, i just enjoy free time with them. Not long ago, my girlfriends dad made a comment about saying i should grow out of video games. I don’t even know what to say, i really think that they do me good, and i’m not going to just stop because he said so. They’re entertainment, cmon’ now. my brother is 29 and is an avid gamer, 9-5 job, no wife, no kids. what else could he be doing?

  • Lee

    Just turned 56 and built my third game machine. Nuff said!

  • I’m 30 years old and I’ve been gaming for the past 25 years, starting with the Nintendo Entertainment System. To me, though, video games aren’t just something I do to unwind, but a way of life. I was always creative as a kid, so I decided that I wanted to make my own video games, which is what I’m doing now.

    I don’t think there is any age limit to gaming and I really can’t see myself doing anything else. I actually got my grandma into games in the 90s with the GameBoy + Tetris, and she’s currently 80 years old and plays games like Pokemon and Professor Layton on her DS!

  • Josh

    Not to be all negative, but is it any surprise that most people reading and commenting on this article are still gamers? I would think most post-gamers wouldn’t really care enough to.

    I think plenty of people grow out of video games. Myself, I play less and less and the desire to be creative (instead of consume creative media) is part of it. Another is my desire to be more imaginative, instead of having others imagine for me. Add that to the stresses of life and wanting to do some significant with the rest of my years and I feel as though I’ll back out of video games significantly more than I have even now. I still love games, though I prefer cardboard to electronic now as they are more easily enjoyed with family and are much easier to not overplay.

  • Eric Carls

    For myself, my interests have changed over the years. Video games as a passtime are just not exciting anymore.
    I also found that I was frowning alot while playing video games, all that concentration 😉 Staring at the monitor for hours on end was just not a healthy choice I could continue doing.
    At times, I would even force myself to play a game just because it was a habit and surely I would enjoy it, because hey I used to. Yet, even then I would play less than 1/2 hour and then go on and do something else. Certainly balance was an issue and at the time, I didn’t have a balanced lifestyle.
    Having said that, I’m getting more enjoyment doing things I used to do prior to having an addiction to video games. Whether it’s reading a good book, riding a mountain bike or spending more time socializing, I just generally feel happier not staring at pretty pixels 🙂
    You can do whatever you want, yet I firmly believe it’s a very unhealthy hobby. Thankfully I recognized that and made changes. There’s only so many hours in a day, I’ve decided to make the most of them.

  • Ender88

    If you really did have a love for gaming at one time in your life then it wouldn’t be considered a chore any other time in your life.
    I have grown to accept that I am not the hardcore gamer I once was, and have merged with the casual gamer demographic.

    Variety is the spice of life and the more opportunities you open yourself up for the more activities and obligations will emerge in your life. You should never force yourself to play a video game just because you used to as a kid, if that is the case you are forcing yourself to become a non gamer.

    I know exactly what games I want to play each year and the ones I still really want to play I play them a year or two later when the price is 1/3 of what it originally retailed for. (L.A. Noir is a good example 19.99) When I was a kid I played everything and anything I could play on my consoles or at the arcade. (thank you mom and blockbuster).
    I will always watch the press conferences at E3 and have my own opinion and taste for what is coming out.

    Once a gamer always a gamer. If you consider yourself a gamer in the past and not now…well then you were never really a gamer then were you.

  • Mr. Right

    There’s no such thing as growing out of video games. They’re a form of art, just like films, television, books and music. You don’t just stop watching films and reading books when you hit adulthood, so there’s no reason to do so for games.

  • Kat

    At the time of writing, I’m 33. I’ve been a gamer since I’ve gotten an 486DX266 in 1994. I was 15 at the time. My very first game that I bought, was Star Trek – 25th Anniversary, after playing a demo at my neighbors house. I actually upgraded the 486 with a CD-player and sound card to be able to play the enhanced CD-version with REAL sound and REAL voice overs.

    Actually, I just finished installing and configuring this game in DOSBox, using the very CD I bought back then. I’m going to play through it again, as well as many other old games I own. I have many titles, starting from 1993 (ST:25Th) up to 2011 (The Witcher 2).

    It’s indeed a problem to tell people that you still play games. “But that’s for kids!”. “Oh, then try to finish this game? Then we’ll talk again.” Many games are so complex, that many kids of less than 16 or so won’t be able to finish them. This will be even harder if English is not their native language. I could do it back then, with a bit of help of a dictionary at some points, but that does not make me the norm. I actually “hide” that I still play (old) games at my age. While people of my age or a bit younger can understand it, because they still play games themselves, people that are around 40 and up often find it strange. They can’t even fathom what could be fun in playing a game and see it as a childish pastime.

    For me, it’s just one of my hobbies. I take pictures, play an instrument, read, watch a movie, play Chess or Go, or I play a game. Sometimes one hobby ends up in a corner for a few weeks or months if I devote my time to another. Then the hobby switches to a different one. Sometimes I don’t game for weeks or months. Sometimes I don’t touch my camera for a long time when I’m gaming. Sometimes both of those hobbies are not practised while I’m busy with music.

    For me, gaming is just a pastime, no more (or less) childish than the others I have.


    I do buy a lot less games nowadays, but that really is the fault of the gaming industry with their DRM, permanent online chec, DLC, and other idiotic stuff. As you can see above, I’m not afraid to install and play a game that is almost 20 years old. I can do this with every game I own. As long as I have a computer that runs it, I can play it. The sole exception is Dragon Age, which has a check on DLC and won’t run if there is no internet connection and it wants to do it’s checking.

    I started to refuse to buy such games, and The Witcher 2 is the last game I bought in the last three years. I’m a fan of GOG.com: “You buy it, you keep it.” If this becomes the norm for newer games (again), then I will start buying again. If there will be more DRM, checking, and DLC, and the chance I can’t run a game 10 years from now EVEN if I have a computer / Virtual Machine / Whatever that can do it, then I’ll stop buying and gaming, in the long run.

  • Caleb

    I thank the older community could benefit form playing video games. Older ones who cant make it out of their houses, or who couldn’t move around as much could still go online and interact with plp. Also its a way to keep your mind active. I’m only 25 but i could still see myself playing video games up to the day i die. Their are a lot of Older plp living at home a lone and when something happens it might take days for someone to come by, but if they had a social game that they play online, when they didn’t show up people would know.

    Don’t get me wrong though their are things more important than Games, like family and friends. But plp need to use discipline when playing games. My brother and i use to play WoW together, and he just got lost in the game and started forsaking his family and ended up loosing his wife over it. Me, on the other hand never had that problem, with any game. I think their are just some plp who are prone to getting lost in a game rather than real life.

    But im excited to see what happens with the future of video games, something like .hack would be great.

    But of course the world is going to end on the 21st so this whole thread is mute, XD

  • Maria

    Hi guys! great post by the way.. I just have a question…I happen to be a 30 year old woman who is married..has a job..cooks dinner..blah blah…and play video games every single day!!!! I grew up with video games and I just think, for me, it is the best hobbie…it is not just a pass time..and I do not see myself stopping anytime soon..my question is…is it THAT STRANGE for a woman to play video games?? cause..I actually have to hide the fact that I am a video game lover from most of my family and friends..etc..cause they think I have no life if I play!!!and that it is so stupid! every time I even dare mention it to anyone they think I am a bizarre human being.. please help!!!…thank you! 🙂

  • Ivo

    @ Maria

    My best friend is 43 years old and is AT THIS VERY moment playing Sniper Elite V2 on the PC. He is a father of two boys (7 and 11) , he is an architect and works real hard every day.He plays videogames atleast two hours after work every day! His wife is okay with it, his kids are okay with it.
    Also my mother is in her early 50’s and spends atleast 2 hours a day on games.
    I’m almost 30 now and i’ve been playing video games all my life. I’m not planning on stoping anytime soon too. Chill out! You’re okay,nothing is wrong with you.Try to explain the people that give you the weird eye that video games are just like any other hoby.Be it books or movies,you’re spending free time the way you like the most.

  • Vermin

    My dad is 60 and plays Far Cry 3 every evening. It’s interesting. When I was no more than 3 or 4 years old, he got me into gaming with titles like Duke Nukem and Star Wars: Dark Forces (probably wasn’t in his best judgement to subject a toddler to those types of games). Nevertheless, I loved those games, and still do today. Now, I’m the one suggesting the games he should try out.

  • Ricky Smallwood

    Hello. I’m 61 one and have been playing xenoblade chronicles x everyday the past 3 weeks. Looking forward to zelda wii u. Love kicking my kids and grandkids but playing mario kart. Why should it matter how old you are if you enjoy it. Sometimes my mind still thinks I’m 21, but my body usually let’s me know otherwise or the mirror, sometimes it scares me when I look in it. I’m like ah, who’s the old guy.