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Video games “more popular than footy” in Australia, says report

by Busines Newswire
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Australia is famous for its outdoor lifestyle, from the beach and surf culture to the nation’s consistent ability to punch above its weight on the international sports scene. As far as the latter goes, it is all the more impressive that Australia is world class in cricket and rugby given that these are not even the nation’s top sport. First place belongs to Australian Rules Football, a sport that is a true national obsession and that is only played in Australia.

Yet a new report by the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) suggests that Australia might be falling under the thrall of a new national obsession. The number of Australians playing video games has risen from 63 percent in 2021 to 81 percent. And Australians mean it – the average time spent playing per person per day is around 90 minutes – 10 minutes longer than a game of Aussie Rules footy.

Is gaming really more popular than AFL?

They say you can prove anything with statistics, and the data is not easy to accurately compare. Having said that, media research data suggests that 56 percent of Australians tuned in to the main Australian TV stations to watch the AFL Finals last year – Aussie Rules’ equivalent of the Super Bowl.

So, some might have watched it later, others might have been listening to it on the radio – while playing games, perhaps. But placed side by side, the numbers certainly indicate that Australians are more interested in playing video games than watching their national sport.

Changing player demographics

That leap from 63 percent to 81 percent is significant and needs to be considered in the broader context of world events. In 2021, there were plenty of “new gamers” who took up the pastime as a way to stay occupied while normal life was suspended. The evidence is that they continued to play games even when the world returned to normal.

The average age of gamers has risen by three months to 35. Around three quarters of 45 to 75 year olds play games, as do around half of over-75s. This has led to a shift in the type of games that are most popular.

From casino to word puzzles – Aussie adults like adult games

By adult games we don’t mean anything to cause blushes. Australia is a nation where gambling is commonplace. Incredibly, 20 percent of all the slot machines (or pokies as Australians call them) are in Australia, despite it being home to only 0.3 percent of the world’s population.

When Australia’s physical casinos were closed, players sought out the best online pokies instead, and once they started playing these and other casino games online, few saw any reason to stop, even when the world reopened. In fact, the number of Australians playing online casinos continued to rise in 2022, albeit at a lower year-on-year rate than in 2021.

It’s not just casino games, either. Word puzzles have always been popular among adult players, and in pre-internet days, they would do newspaper crosswords and so on. Today, these have been mostly superseded by the likes of Wordle and Words With Friends.

Video gaming has its benefits

It is easy to take statistics like these and put them up alongside Australia’s obesity figures and demonize gaming. But to do so is lazy and disingenuous – you could as easily blame TV or movie streams or even books.

There are plenty of minutes left in the day, and the 90 spent gaming brings benefits to players, especially older ones. Three-quarters of gamers play with others, making gaming a highly social pastime. This is particularly so with older generations. 91 percent of players over 65 say gaming is a fun way of connecting with family and friends.

That can never be a bad thing, so let’s celebrate the positives of gaming as a pastime. We can always watch the footy later.