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Seasonal Fluctuations in Playing Time

There are several stats that I check often as basic guards for data sanity. So typically, I check average number of hours and gender distribution to make sure they are close to the numbers I've seen before. I had also found before that age doesn't correlate with number of hours played each week, so I was terribly surprised when I checked for that in the most recent data set and found a significant correlation (r = -.13, p < .001). I plotted this out and indeed the correlation looked strong.

So I went back through the past survey phases one by one to see how long this had been the case. And then something more puzzling showed up. The correlation does not appear in data set from the phase before (r = -.03, p = .21), or the one before that.

Over the past 6 years, I had come to expect relative stabilities from phase to phase especially because the sample sizes tend to be large. And then I realized that this may be driven by teenagers and college students being out of school for the summer since I started the phase in early June, while the previous phase started in late March. I ran some numbers and playing time overall was higher in the June sample than the March sample (23.5 vs,. 22. 3), and most of the difference came from the 22 and under crowd (as the graphs show).

I then went back to last year's data and found the same pattern. There was a correlation between age and playing time if a phase was run in the summer months, but not in normal school months. So what I used to say about the correlation about age and hours played per week isn't entirely correct. Age is not correlated with hours played per week, except when school is out in the summer, in which case younger players do play significantly more than older players and there is a correlation between age and game-play.

Posted on August 29, 2006 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)


Play time is not correlated to age - it's correlated to how many hours you work and/or go to school (classes + study). Age is correlated to fewer total hours spent working and/or going to school per year which is of course lower in the summer.

Posted by: Ken Beck on September 2, 2006 8:07 AM

Playtime varies depending on committments, as well as opportunity to undertake other activities.
Generally I play more in the Winter as I won't be playing golf, doing the gardening, or outdoor DIY :0

Posted by: Steve Conway on September 3, 2006 6:45 PM

I am 42 and played a lot more this summer than during the school year, but my profession is teaching. However, my WOW guild was having a terrible time filling raids and progressing from mid June onwards, even though we had just killed our first Blackwing lair boss. Our guild is a mix of late teen to twenty something college students and older players (some of whom are parents). There was a general sense that the low attendance was due to summer vacation. The college students were either working at summer jobs or doing outdoor summer things, while the parents were out doing family activities with their out-of-school kids (who were less likely to be in bed by raid times in the evening). We are a semi-casual guild, but even people I know in more "hard core" guilds mentioned that they find attandance is always lower in the summer and that it tends to pick up in the fall once it starts getting dark early and the weather starts getting cruddy again. So maybe the demographics are strange on our server or something.

Posted by: Erica on September 4, 2006 12:34 AM

Just a note - my corp in EVE has to suspend a significant portion of group activities every summer - and to plan supplies, etc. around that down time.

Posted by: Aeco on September 4, 2006 12:40 PM

I am a thirty something and my hours/week played reduces greatly during summer and ramps up during winter.. simply due to other, outdoor pursuits during the summer. I would be interested in a breakdown of data of older folks across all months to see if this is true... tho you may have to put some geographic variables in there as well.

Posted by: Karen on September 5, 2006 9:25 AM

In my experience, on the euro WoW servers raid attendance and time played in general goes down a lot in the summer for various reasons, though the most important one that people give is that they plan to spend more time outside.

Also, what Ken Beck said in the first post is something that would receive QFT on the official forums.

Posted by: Harri on September 7, 2006 11:19 AM

What Ken said is incorrect if the data is correct. Note, however, that his comment might have just stemmed from a misunderstanding of what a correlation means. This data does not search for a cause, but rather a relationship between hours played, age, and season. Correlation does not imply causation.

Posted by: Nick on September 26, 2006 10:03 AM

Similarly to Karen's comment above, my game playing time changes throughout the year. I spend more time playing during the summer months and vacations when there are fewer time constraints due to the school year. Not because I'm a student, but because I'm a parent. If I've got to supervise homework, cook dinner, read a bedtime story, and get my son to bed, I don't have as much time to play.

I'd love to see a survey of gamers who are also parents. How much is parenting affected by gaming? How much is gaming affected by parenting?

Posted by: Snow on September 28, 2006 11:36 AM

My wife and I during the summer tend to game only on rainy days when we can't work in the yard or on outside projects, but come fall we are back in and our online hours soar.

Posted by: Madoc on October 6, 2006 11:00 PM

My playing time goes up and down, but definitely goes up during time periods I have my kids (I share custody). My kids like to game with me, and I enjoy being ingame with them. It's interesting, my youngest son, age 9, is allowed to play with very strict rules, and usually just spends his time running around exploring the world. He and I have shared memories of being in WoW together, and I cherish those times because they were so fun. On one level, I know this is what good parenting is about (enjoying being with each other and having a good time while we're together), and on another level, I wonder if I'm being a responsible parent by getting my kids into gaming.

Posted by: Aikiku on October 11, 2006 9:33 PM

Especially during day-time, for me it is a matter of the trade-off whether I decide to play or rather go outside. The better the weather is, the more I have the feeling that I am missing out on something by staying indoors. If someone gave me a water/sand-proof laptop to take to the beach, I would probably play there, hehe.

Posted by: Sardionerak on October 12, 2006 6:58 PM

Has anyone here seen Southpark episode 1008? It's a good piece of satire (at the best of times).

@Aikiku: Just be sure the kids know how to use apostrophes. MMO style games aren't grammatically benificial :p

Having said that, there's fierce little left in the world that you could call 'good clean family fun'.

Let me ask you this: If someone said the word Dragon, what would you think of? What would someone who has never seen any pictures think of?

Posted by: Steo on October 14, 2006 4:46 PM

Have you extracted the WoW factor?
Certainly WoW is skewed toward younger players compared to many other MMORPGs and their numbers have been growing very fast. Interestingly, WoW has been such a successful game and increased playing time such a lot for many people, that because of its skew to younger players, this may be impacting on the data. Obviously this is relevant to the year on year data, not the quarterly. It is quite notable that the total number of hours has gone up year on year, which would also correlate with this theory.

Posted by: scytale2 on October 24, 2006 3:25 PM

I agree with seasonal fluctuations. For me (I live in Pacific NW) after hollidays settle down, game playing goes up until Hiking season starts (Late march for me).

Posted by: Paul on November 3, 2006 9:34 AM

Your saying that if someone has more time to play, they'll play more? This is surprising? ;)

Posted by: Undertow on November 8, 2006 9:49 AM

I noticed a HUGE decrease in player in WOW on my server when school started back up. My school started up later, and so it was next to impossible to find a group during that time. Also, during mid terms and finals A LOT of people took time off of playing which for some was around March which may have thrown that off a bit.

Posted by: krol on November 14, 2006 8:53 AM

sorry i didn't read all the comments so someone may have mentioned this alrdy.

but i figure if your not playing the computer as much, then your not looking at sites like this either and thus the people answering these surveys would be the kids sitting at home playing there computer all day, and not the people who have other outdoor activities they are doing

Posted by: Tula on May 6, 2007 9:26 PM
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