From Gran Turismo to WWE SmackDown, sports-based video games represent a wide variety of pursuits. When it comes to the people who actually play those games, however, little is known. How do sports video game players fit their games into a larger sports-related context? And how does their playing of video games inform their media usage and general sports fandom?
Insights into sports video game players
Researchers from Concordia and MIT undertake a large-scale study into player demographics
Mia Consalvo is an associate professor in Concordia’s Department of Communication Studies. | Photo by David WardThat’s what Concordia University communication studies Associate Professor Mia Consalvo sought to discover when she embarked on a large-scale study of video game players, the results of which were recently published in Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies.
Along with Abe Stein and Konstantin Mitgutsch from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Consalvo, who also holds a Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design, conducted an online survey of 1,718 participants to pin down demographics, habits, attitudes and activities of sports video game players.
The researchers found that the majority of those who play sports video games are male (98.4 per cent), white (80 per cent) and in their mid-20s (average age of 26 years). In comparison with other representative video game player demographics, the field is less diverse and the average player is younger. Based on the data about the larger game-playing population, it seems that the sports gamers are drawn from a more traditional demographic of game players, at least when it comes to console and certain personal computer-based video games.
“Perhaps one of the biggest findings to emerge from this study is unsurprising, but finally documented,” notes Consalvo. “The overwhelming majority of sports gamers – 93.3 per cent – self-identify as sports fans. That identity pushes beyond the playing of sports-themed video games. Attending sporting events, watching them on television, participating in those activities themselves as well as following certain teams or sports were regular parts of their daily lives.”
Consalvo says she hopes to gain more insight into why there is little diversity in the player demographics, and why female players are in a minority. “While this study provides new insights into who sports video game players are and what they play and why, we still lack knowledge on how these players relate their passion for video games to their sports fandom in general,” she says. She hopes to address these questions in her forthcoming book, co-authored with Stein and Mitsgutsch, titled Sports Videogames.