Not just child's play - women and parents game too

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Survey shows nearly half players are women and most parents are involved

Fuarosa Taito-Alo says she uses her phone for games rather than talking or texting. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Fuarosa Taito-Alo says she uses her phone for games rather than talking or texting. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Nearly half of gamers in New Zealand are female and more parents are playing video games than ever before.

Results from a recent survey, Digital New Zealand 2014, show a change from what has long been regarded as the typical gamer - teenage boys.

The average age of a gamer is now 33, and 48 per cent of gamers are female.

Nearly all of the households with children surveyed had computer games and just over half said they used their PC for games.

Seventy-nine per cent of dads are playing video games now and 75 per cent of mums are doing it, too - but mostly on cellphones and tablets such as the iPad.

The survey was carried out by Professor Jeff Brand, of Bond University in Australia. He said the advance of technology had led to a change within society and among all age groups.

"We now have three generations of New Zealanders enjoying video games - and we're engaging with interactive games wherever we go.

"We might play a quick mobile game on the bus on the way to work, an educational game with the children after school and a family game on the console ... with our grandparents on the weekend."

Older people were playing video games as well, and 71 per cent of gamers were aged 18 or older.

Of those, 17 per cent were over 51, and many said they played games to keep their minds active.

NZGamer.com site manager Aaron Scott said developers were coming up with increasingly sophisticated games with improved graphics and realistic concepts.

That had helped to attract a much wider audience, including girls and women, older people and parents.

"It's not just a guy thing any more and it's not about people being holed up all day long.

"The storylines on the games are now so impressive. You've seen it in games like Grand Theft Auto. They've got a really strong and realistic game there.

"It's not like the old Sonic the Hedgehog where you're just going left to right."

Nearly four out of five parents said they used video games as an education tool.

The editor of KiwiFamilies.co.nz, Rochelle Gribble, said she was not surprised at the findings, as many parents were embracing games as a way to connect with their children, as well as a learning tool.

"There's this opinion that video games are bad and the old idea that they just have you sitting in front of the TV for hours.

"But there are games that are very physical games now. It's not just a sit-down activity and is something that could be really good for families, say for something like a wet afternoon."

Ms Gribble said some mothers used video games on Facebook and apps as a form of escapism. "Games like Candy Crush are huge with mums, who just use them for zoning out."

as long as parents knew how to balance time spent playing games on the computer, console or cellphone - versus throwing a ball outside - everything would be okay.

"Life is all about balance," she said. "You could spend the whole day running around with the kids and then, later in the afternoon, everybody needs a little bit of downtime.

"That could be playing a video game and that's fine."


Busy on phone, but not talking

Fuarosa Taito-Alo is a self-confessed games addict.

She is often seen with her head down, eyebrows furrowed and thumbs moving rapidly on her touch-screen cellphone.

"I hardly text off my phone - I rarely use it as an actual phone. The only reason I love it so much is because of the games."

The Auckland high school teacher, in her 30s, has downloaded and bought dozens of mainly strategy and mind games for her phone.

She has never owned a PlayStation or Xbox. She used to have an iPad, but found the cellphone was much more convenient.

"You don't have to go on a computer and wait for it to load and all that. It's just there in your hand. I think that's why lots of people enjoy playing them - it's easy. When I'm waiting for takeaways, I just take it out and play a game."

Ms Taito-Alo acknowledged that there was still a misconception about the kinds of people who play games - as well as the games themselves.

"I know of lots of older people who are game addicts and we talk about the levels we've reached. I noticed the other day that the top people on my Candy Crush were all girls and that just shows it's not all about the guys playing games.

"Lots of people say they're just a waste of time. But it's not like they're dumb games. A lot of them are about strategy and being strategic about how you can move up a level, for example. The games I play are mostly word games and I like to think that that's helping my mind somehow."

She can spend hours playing any one of them, and says that doing so helps her relax.


Gaming by the numbers

• 98% of NZ homes with children have computer games

• 70% of households have two or more gamers

• 60 minutes - typical play time

• 48% of gamers are female

• 33 years old - average age of gamer

• 17% of gamers over 51 years old

• 75% of mums play video games

- Survey of 2,377 people in 805 NZ households

- NZ Herald

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