Generational Gaming | Exploring Video Game Habits by Generation

Written by Nathan at 7th April 2021

Generational Gaming

Highlights

  • Gaming among seniors is on the rise: 1 in 3 started actively gaming during the pandemic.
  • Candy Crush, Minecraft, and GTA V are the most popular titles among senior gamers.
  • More than 1 in 10 senior gamers experienced bullying or toxic behavior while playing online.
  • 50% of gamers think it should be illegal to flip in-demand consoles.

The Gaming Renaissance

The gaming industry exploded over the last year, with revenue expected to surge 20% in 2020, fueled partly by the COVID-19 pandemic. But just who was contributing to this meteoric rise in popularity? It might not be who you think.

The gaming industry was flooded with 10 million new users between 2016 and 2019, an over 26% increase from the 40 million gamers in 2016. This trend appears to have continued during the COVID-19 pandemic, as seniors were advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stay indoors, and gaming was among the few options for entertainment.

For our study, we surveyed 1,003 respondents of all ages to find out not only who is gaming, but what games they’re playing, what systems they’re using, and what their experiences are like in the gaming world. Read on to find out just how seniors are joining the world of gaming and how that might shake up the industry for the future.

Covid-19 Gaming at a Glance 

The COVID-19 pandemic gave many Americans the free time and the opportunity to explore new forms of entertainment, including seniors. We discovered that baby boomers and Gen Xers were gaming daily at significant rates, only a bit behind younger generations once thought to dominate this market. Their gaming habits showed interesting trends in preferences among generations.

Although the most likely generation to game daily during COVID-19 was millennials at 48.9%, both Generation X and baby boomers were still above 40%. Additionally, men were more likely than women to game online daily. This could be due to a checkered history of how female gamers have been treated online in instances like the Gamergate controversy. However, the gap between male and female respondents was still relatively small at 4.3 percentage points. The two most popular gaming platforms were PCs at over 50% and mobile at over 55%, compared to PlayStation, which was the only console to get close to those numbers with 34.4%. Historically, PlayStation has been the best selling of the console-based platforms, especially when compared to Xbox. PlayStation significantly outperformed Xbox in our survey of two recent iterations of their consoles, with the PS4 outperforming Xbox One and PS5 outperforming the Xbox Series X.

Generationally, our respondents reported a wide variety of preferences in choosing their favorite gaming console. Not surprisingly, PC and mobile platforms were in the top three of all generations. However, PC was the most popular platform for every generation except Gen X, where 23% of respondents reported mobile as their favorite platform. Gen Xers were also the only generation to include Xbox One in their top three, while the other three generations preferred to game on a PS4.

Grandma Plays GTA, Grandpa Crushes Candy

The gaming industry has seen an influx in senior gamers to the tune of over 60% since the pandemic began, as seniors searched for alternative forms of entertainment during quarantine. The most popular games among seniors came from a wide variety of perhaps unexpected styles and genres, including violent games.

Senior respondents to our survey said they play a little bit of everything in the gaming world, with some genres more popular than others, like action/adventure and puzzle/party at 15.6% and 14.8%, respectively. One style the senior community played at an extremely low rate was the survival horror genre at 2.3%, compared to games that might offer a little dose of nostalgia like classic/retro games at 12.3%.

Genres being a somewhat broader category – with all sorts of games falling into each one – we took a look at the most popular games among seniors and found some interesting results as well. The single most popular game for seniors was, by a landslide, Candy Crush at 38% – a game played predominantly on mobile devices. The next closest game in popularity was Minecraft at over 17%, a game usually marketed toward younger audiences but which has also been used in therapeutic capacities with older gamers. Perhaps surprisingly, 40% of seniors reported playing violent video games. This showed in Grand Theft Auto V and two separate Call of Duty iterations rounding out the top five most popular video games among respondents.

Can’t Troll a Senior

For a generation that didn’t grow up online, the experience of entering the gaming community can differ greatly from younger generations. This proves to be true as well in the ways in which generations participate in the gaming world.


Perhaps it was the lower level of engagement with online platforms reported by our senior respondents, but seniors seemed to have more positive experiences gaming than other generations. Our senior respondents reported much lower rates of experiencing bullying or toxic behavior online, a problem for the gaming community that is faced with recent rises in gamers experiencing harassment. Only 14.8% of seniors reported experiencing that behavior online. Less than half of our respondents gamed online at all. However, the number of seniors who watched gaming streams (45.1%) was higher than one might have expected. Coupled with 18% of our respondents reporting to have purchased a newly released PS5 console – which was a very difficult console to find in 2020 – seniors appear to have been participating in the modern gaming world in a big way. Perhaps they were inspired by the 90-year-old Call of Duty streamer that has nearly 500,000 subscribers on YouTube. Some of these senior gamers – to the tune of 37.3% of our respondents – were even willing to showcase their skills to the world on their very own gaming streams.

The Perks of Being a Gamer

People game for all sorts of reasons: Whether they are terrible at a game but love to play to blow off steam after work, or they compete in tournaments for cash prizes, everyone gets something unique out of it. But there does seem to be some commonality among generations. In fact, 63% of all gamers surveyed believed gaming has a positive effect on seniors.


Out of the four generations of respondents we surveyed, all of them ranked stress relief and strategic thinking as the top two benefits they got from gaming. Sentiment began to differ when it came to other benefits. Gen Z, who have arguably spent the highest percentage of their lives working with touch screens and tablets, were the one generation to not rank hand-eye coordination third. Neither baby boomers nor Gen Xers found socialization to be as important as the two younger generations. Conversely, Gen Z respondents and millenials both left improved memory outside their top five, while both of the older generations found this benefit to be key. Senior gamers might have been on to something, as some games have even been found to help stimulate memory formation.

Ban the Flip?

The gaming industry was already experiencing a huge boom in the pandemic, which led right into the release schedule of the highly anticipated PlayStation 5 console this past fall. There were entire online forums and articles dedicated solely to the purpose of locating available consoles and buying them before they quickly sold out online.


Not everyone was able to secure the coveted PS5. Our respondents reported purchasing PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch at higher rates than the PS5 console, perhaps due to scarcity. Over 48% of our respondents experienced difficulty buying a PS5, and reseller prices online were over $1,000 for a console that retails for a $399 starting price. Resellers used markets like eBay to resell these consoles and pocket the profit. Online markets were flooded with PS5 consoles at secondary market prices, outselling Xbox Series X in those markets by double – possibly leading to 49.7% of our respondents wishing it were illegal to buy consoles just to sell them for a profit. One thing is for sure, secondary market shoppers were definitely buying more PlayStations than Xboxes or Nintendos, even if they were increasingly difficult to find.

Taking Gaming to the Next Level

The gaming landscape has no doubt been changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. And now, with more seniors joining the gaming world, we have new insights into the needs of senior gamers.

Whatever console our respondents were playing on, our senior respondents reported benefitting from games in ways ranging from stress relief to critical thinking. One thing is for sure, technology – especially in their home – should be there to help people game however and wherever they choose.

One key piece of the freedom to game wherever you’d like is a Stannah Stairlift for your home.

Senior gamers no longer have to be restricted to gaming on the first floor. With Stannah Stairlifts, seniors can literally raise their gaming to the next level, even of their own home. Seniors can hone their skills wherever they please and rely on being able to safely move between levels of both their game and their home. Visit www.stannah-stairlifts.com to find your home solution today.

Methodology and Limitations

We collected responses from 1,003 gamers using a bespoke survey platform. Of the 1,003 respondents surveyed, 43.6% identified as women, 55.4% were men, and 1% were nonbinary. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 73 with an average of 38.9.

The main limitation of this study is the reliance on self-report, which is faced with several issues such as, but not limited to, attribution, exaggeration, recency bias, and telescoping.

Fair Use Statement

Senior gamers are growing in numbers every day, and the gaming community is noticing. We’re happy you have, too. Please share our study online or via social media for any noncommercial use, and be sure to link it back so that our contributors earn credit for their work.