The Gamer Habitat

I was pursuing several different ideas that led to this data set. One theme was the use of laptops vs. desktops. Within the MMO gaming sphere, there is a notion of "drawing spousal aggro" - spouses getting angry at gamers who spend the whole afternoon/night playing. In one of our PARC meetings, Bob Moore commented that the low technical requirements of WoW allowed gamers to play the game on a laptop next to their spouse while watching TV (i.e., increasing physical proximity via mobility), and might thereby lower their spousal aggro. But this interaction between form factor and social proximity led me to thinking about broader questions about whether gamers usually play alone (physically) or whether they usually play with someone else in the room. And given the number of gamers who regularly play with someone in their family, the next natural question was how many gamers play in a room where someone else is also playing.

Overall (N = 2692), 90% of respondents typically play on their desktops, while 10% typically play on their laptops. There were no gender differences, and the age differences were very mild (7% in the 12-17 group, peaks in the 18-22 age group at around 13%, and the rest averages around 9-10%).


I started out by asking players how many computers they had in their household on which an MMO was regularly played. Overall, 45% of respondents had more than one computer in their household on which an MMO was regularly played. The gender differences that emerge make sense in the context of earlier data showing that female players are more likely to be playing with someone they know in real life (i.e., romantic partner, children, etc.)

Here is the graph for players who have more than 2 computers in their household on which an MMO is regularly played. Again, we see a gender difference, although this time it is only apparent after the 23-28 age range.


This leads us to the frequency of MMO gamers who usually play with someone else in the same room (i.e., two gamers, two computers, playing together). It was striking that for female players in the 23-35 age range, more than half regularly play together with someone else in the same room.

Here's another way to think about the issue. I asked players to indicate whether they usually play alone or with someone else in the room. With the numbers we've seen so far, it makes sense that female players are more likely to be with someone else while playing, whereas male players are more likely to be alone.

But overall, I think these numbers highlight the often social aspects of game-play, not only in the virtual world, but in the physical world. MMO gamers are playing together with other people in two separate worlds. Some may argue that people are displacing interaction with each other with a virtual and less real experience, but watching TV together passively seems to me to be the far more pervasive and less interactive phenomenon. Narratives from players who do play together also challenge the non-interactive argument. Their descriptions highlight how playing together in the virtual world can strengthen real world relationships.