Computer games have been around for a couple of decades now (yes, you’re getting old) and gaming has become a massive industry.
What are kids’ gaming habits like in the UK today? And how do boys’ and girls’ gaming preferences and attitudes differ?
These questions were posited by a recent gaming project by Nickelodeon UK. This research was heavily featured in a July article on the future of gaming in The Guardian. Here are key findings from this study:
TV dominates UK kids’ screen time … but gaming is a huge (and growing) part of their lives.
- Television viewing on the main TV set occupied 59% of their screen time
- Nearly a quarter (22%) of their total screen time went to gaming
Gaming among kids is nearly universal in the UK, according to parents.
- 99% of kids play games on handhelds, consoles, or mobile devices weekly, according to parents
- Over half (56%) of kids play games daily—and it only grows with age (45% of K6-8, 57% of K9-10, 70% of K11-12)
- Gaming moves hand-in-hand with personal device ownership, which also increases with age (46% of K3-4 own a device, 68% of K5-7, 85% off K8-11, 94% of K12-15)
Parents love gaming, too—especially as a family.
- 3 out of 4 parents say they love to play games as a family
- Nearly 7 in 10 see games as a great way to bond
- As more Millennials become parents, new parents are very tech-proficient and pass that down to their children
Gaming isn’t just for boys—girls love it, too!
- 70% of girls say they love to play games
- 1 in 4 consider themselves a gaming addict
- Boys play more frequently from a younger age–but at age 9-10 both genders are on an even playing field, with 54% of boys and 60% of girls gaming daily
- Gaming peaks for girls at age 9-10—after that, their focus shifts toward their social lives (while boys’ passion for gaming continues)
Boys and girls play games differently.
- Consoles are the #1 gaming device among boys (50% say it’s their favorite), followed by tablets
- Smartphones do not really register for boys—they prefer bigger screens and more immersive experiences
- Tablets are girls’ preferred device, driven by younger girls
- Apps have made gaming more accessible to girls and offer more “girl-driven” games than consoles
- At the peak gaming age for girls (9-10), consoles are important to hard-core gamers (25%), though the tablet still reigns (43%); as girls move into secondary school they focus more on smartphones
Boys’ gaming preferences shift with age. They start with exploring and racing games, then move into sports and shooting games.
- While all boys are competitive, the youngest ones thrive on being the fastest, biggest, best
- Competition becomes more advanced as boys grow — sports games become more popular and a way to bond with friends
- Shooting games are more common among older boys (11-12)
- Exploring/Building (primarily Minecraft) games remain relatively consistent across age groups
Girls love puzzle games the most.
- Puzzle games are more suited to mobile devices (their preferred gaming device)
- Singing and dancing games are popular, but skew younger
- They also love Minecraft, character world games, and simulation games like The Sims
- In general, girls stay with kids’ brands and immersive world longer than boys
Boys bond with each other through gaming, while girls prefer to play alone.
- Boys enjoy playing with friends in the same room (something that increases with age); playing online kids in at 9 and by 11-12 a third of boys play online with friends (vs. 14% of girls)
- Girls are more private about gaming, with 50% preferring to play alone (which increases with age)
When kids talk about gaming, conversations turn toward competition and new games.
- Among boys and girls, levels completed and high scores are among the most common topics
- New games are also a hot topic
- Boys are more competitive than girls–as boys get older, they talk more about high scores and methods for increasing them (tips and cheats, YouTube videos, walk-throughs, etc.)
- The playground is the main place where kids talk about and discover new games
- YouTube is also a key source of gaming information for kids (especially boys) over 9
Summary of UK boys’ and girls’ gaming habits and preferences:
- Core focus on game consoles because they are immersive
- It’s all about completing the game and being the best
- Tablets skew young or are more for casual gaming; they could be used to complement console games or promote conversation
- YouTube is important for knowledge, discovery, and passing on skills—and should be embraced!
- Gaming peaks at age 9-10, then migrates to smartphones in secondary school—social or puzzle games appeal the most
- Don’t stereotype—racing and platform games are popular
- Be inclusive
- Mobile has opened up the market to girls – embrace the opportunity with this audience!