The perception of gamers as nerdy kids living in their parent’s basements is no longer accurate. Gaming is no longer limited to MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Everquest. Gamers are no longer only nerds with expensive set-ups that allow voice over and full interactive play, with cutting edge technology. “Social games,” games played predominantly on social media sites make up a growing share of the industry. Instead of imagining pimply faced boy nerds, the gamer of the modern area has to include middle-aged working women as a major demographic. A recent study, paid for by PopCap, Bejeweled and Insaniquarium creator, took a look at the social gaming industry in both the United States and United Kingdom. The results revealed that surprisingly the average social media game player is a 43 year old working woman.
The study (results found here) revealed that more than 24 percent of respondents regularly play some form of social game. Many of those are games found on sites like Facebook and MySpace. Some of the most popular of these include: FarmVille, Texas HoldEm Poker, Frontier Ville, Mafia Wars, Café World, Treasure Isle, Pet Society, Millionaire City, MindJolt and Bejeweled Blitz. The number of responses received during the course of the one week study indicates a total population of approximately 100 million social gamers. For the purpose of the study, the term social gamer was defined as those who play a game once a week or more on social networking sites. This market has expanded so rapidly that game designer companies like Zynga have started to make initial public offerings and are now investment opportunities.
Social gaming is often free or inexpensive, easy to play for short bursts and available on standard equipment. The lack of graphically depicted gratuitus violence combined with these factors makes social gaming more accessible to an older demographic. According to survey by Pew Internet, the over thirty-five demographic is the fastest growing social network site user group. This represents an over 100% growth in the percentage of users over thirty five in two years. The addition of professional social networking sites like LinkedIn have accounted for a percentage of that growth.
The study performed by PopCap showed that most social gamers in the United States are women. This forces a reevaluation of societal norms and trends. The past image of the nerd in the basement no longer accurately reflects the gamer demographic. Women today, work harder than they ever have. Expecting themselves to be able to effectively juggle a high-powered career, family needs and still find time for fun. As hard as professional women of today work, they play harder. The laid back, iconic image of the 1950s house wife may get brought out and dusted off now and then, but is has almost no audience in today’s marketplace. The modern woman is expected to do even more than men. Not only must she bring in an income, she must also still complete all the traditional female roles in the home. Not just a wife and mother, but also a provider, the modern woman faces extreme stress from several places.
Keeping a home neat and clean and putting dinner on the table every night can be struggle without the additional burden of going outside the home to work. Raising children is a full time job. A home maker has a full time job; it is simply performed in the home. The changing expectations of society pour more and more burdens onto women. Now they are fulfilling so many roles, that the stress can create problems in every area of their life. No woman can be super woman forever. The demands of fulfilling job expectations and then coming home to fulfill family expectations could be linked to the very high divorce rates.
The unnatural expectation that women be both perfect home makers and highly professional has created stresses in relationships. Of course, when a marriage ends women are often placed in the even more unenviable position of single parent. Given the high stress level experienced by many of the women in today’s society it is no surprise that social gaming is gaining in popularity. The mindless nature of these games allows women to relax and take their mind off of their ever increasing load of responsibilities. The nature of these games is such that they can be played for a few minutes, or a few hours, depending on the time that is available to the gamer. A few minutes to de-stress in the middle of the day can mean the difference between a flawless job performance and burn out.
The games that make the top ten list mostly include reminders of a simpler way of life or expressions of the American dream. Experiencing a simpler more relaxed way of living by playing FarmVille or Frontier Ville is one of the methods of relaxation for the modern woman.