Saturday, August 22, 2009

Are gamers really "old," fat and sad?

I just read an article from Reuters entitled, "Average gamer is 35, often overweight and sad: study." The tease for the article was at another article I was reading and read, "Are gamers old, fat and sad"? From the article:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Video games might be regarded as an obsession for youngsters but in fact the average player is aged 35, often overweight, introverted and may be depressed, according to a U.S. study.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at the behavior of 552 adults aged between 19 to 90 from the Seattle-Tacoma area.

They found 249 of these, or around 45 percent, were video-game players, with men accounting for 56 percent of these.

The researchers found that the men who played video games weighed more and used the Internet more than other men.

Women who played video games reported greater levels of depression and poorer overall health than non-gamers with researcher James Weaver and his colleagues suggesting video gaming for adults may be a form of "digital self-medication."

They said women in particular may immerse themselves in brain-engaging digital environments as a means of self-distraction.


First of all, 35 is not that old. And second, what's wrong with being an introvert? Some of us are introverts, some extroverts, and frankly, I don't think one is better than the other. Finally, maybe playing video games is better therapy than sitting around ruminating about one's problems or doing something destructive. Maybe games are one way that introverts can exert some control over their environment. Maybe digital "self-medication" is not such a bad thing. Who is to say playing videos is harmful? Especially after this study showing that games are not related to violence.

Frankly, given the way that our society treats those who are considered "old, "fat" or not as extroverted as others would like, maybe video games are not such a bad idea.

38 Comments:

Blogger Novaseeker said...

Like everything else, it can be used in moderation or totally misused.

Many of us have known people in our lives who have played online games, for example -- these seem to be the ones that are the most time consuming and immersive for the players. And many of us have seen people go off the track playing these games -- to the detriment of their marriages, their jobs, their education and so on.

Not everyone who plays video games is going to be like that, of course. It's like alcohol. Some people have a beer with dinner or when they get home from work, and they're fine. Other people drink a 12 pack to numb themselves nightly. I suspect that video game use is the same: some people may turn on the XBox for 30-60 minutes after coming home from the gym, other people will be sitting at their computer playing World of Warcraft from the time they get home from work until they go to bed at 2am, ending up sleepy and unproductive the next day. I think it's similar to alcohol in that it *can* be used as a type of escape from reality in the way alcohol is, for people who are looking to escape reality for whatever reason.

Having said that, the issue is not video games, as the issue is not alcohol. The issue is the user, and why they are looking to escape from reality, either with a 12 pack or with WoW.

11:41 AM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger Joe said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:30 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger Joe said...

Note the use of the word "often"; it's meaningless and "often" exaggerated. The "may be" is another really annoying feature of scare stories. Every time I see a story with "may" prominently featured, I know it's pure bullshit intended to fill pages (and that the people interviewed likely don't even believe their own thesis.)

This is just another scare story in the long tradition of claiming everything you don't like as being an aberration and to point the finger of blame at something, anything, going back long before when Comic Books were targeted as the root of all juvenile delinquency.

The point about introverts is especially exasperating. Being an introvert, I've long concluded that extroverts have absolutely no clue what makes us tick. At best they learn to cope with us, at worse they see introvertedness as a disease or disorder.

Oddly enough, I agree in spirit with the notion that video cames is "self-medication" but I hate the phrase and the negative connotation. Could not reading, exercise, going to night clubs, working on a car, playing sports, etc. also fall into this category?

PS. For the record, by popular definition, I am not overweight. The most avid gamers I know aren't overweight and several, including my oldest son, are actually quite skinny and have a large variety of activities.

12:31 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger Joe said...

One more thing; some fathers connect with their boys through baseball, I've connected with video games. I could always talk with my now eighteen-year-old son about World of Warcraft. My now fifteen-year-old has long enjoyed watching me play games and helping me.

I'm now playing Half-Life Opposing Force again and he's watching and making a running commentary; in many ways we're playing it together. These are moments I wouldn't trade for anything. So the authors of this "study" can go fuck themselves.

1:15 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger br549 said...

My son is agoraphobic. I too, have been (physically) healthier than I am today. For almost 20 years, we have been building our own high horsepower computers for him, and medium speed units for me (I'm not a gamer). It's a shared hobby, and we have a blast building super screamers for a couple thousand that would cost many thousands to buy outright. He and I alone could keep New Egg in business. Through my work, I have many acquaintances and quite a few friends all over the country; now even more through blogs. One of my daughters is on the opposite coast in school. E-mail is cheaper than telephones by a long shot. It is safe to say I communicate with many more people on a regular basis than I would if I did not have a computer and used e-mail. I get more exercise, and eat less, than a couch potato. And I do get to Vegas on a relatively regular basis, but not to gamble. I would probably get out more if a couple things were different. And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Basically, I agree with Joe's last statement.

2:10 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

I don't know any gamers, that isn't my world. Just like anything, video games are probably great in moderation. Once you start going 24 hours without stopping, eating or sleeping, then you might think about putting the game away and check to see if you still have a spouse and a family.

As far as ruminating about one's problems is concerned, if you have a problem then rather avoiding it by playing a bunch of video games you might want to think about its source and then figure out a plan of action to make some positive changes. Otherwise the problem isn't going to go away by itself. A little rumination could be a good thing.

The nice thing about video games is the obsession won't hurt your body in the short term, nor will it make you drive erratically. It won't devastate your bank account or cause you to do anything rash. Video games probably won't kill you but they probably won't take away your depression (if you have it) either.

2:17 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger Jacob said...

What bothered me about the study is the way the genders were presented. Female gamers were treated as wholly sympathetic and self-medicating while male gamers were treated as lazy and useless. Of the hardcore gamers I know, none of them are female. Of the hardcore gamers I know, most of them are married, some with children. Their gaming has increased since their marriage and the birth of their children, along with any problems they have at work. It appears more like those men are self-medicating with video games just as some female gamers do.

We need to stop vilifying every male activity while in the same breath sympathizing with females who do the same thing.

2:20 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger JP said...

This study seems to be complete gibberish. A serious study is not based on self-assessment or on self-selected candidates.

BMI is a notoriously unreliable indicator. If you are tall and muscular, you are likely to be categorized as obese.

Why on earth would the CDC waste our money on a study like this that is so poorly designed that the results have no use?

4:50 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

http://hypgnosys.blogspot.com/2009/08/self-medication.html

moderation is the key, i think.

i would love to run more, but my knees will only let me play a couple of times a week.

i tried fifa 2009 with my boys on x-box, but the game-play isn`t quite realistic enough yet...though gotham racing can get um, addictive.

and my children and i have spent many hours connecting while they try to kill my ass on halo.

i think, like anything else, if you are foregoing hygene and diet for extended periods so keep playing, there might be issues.

and cdc is prabably looking for a reason to be able to call gaming a disease in some way.

that`s how they survive, after all.

ray kurzwiel believes that we are all going to be directly connected to eachother by some sort of digital/cerebral interface within a few short years, so much of the speculation about whether hyper-connectivity is right or wrong or good or bad will become moot...in his mind at least.

and we do seem to be taking to virtual reality like some kind of duck to water.

at least some are anyhow.

5:05 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger Dean Esmay said...

Something that bothered me in reading the Reuters report--which may not fairly represent the study's authors--is that they seem to be potentially confusing correlation with causation.

5:14 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger David said...

I'd think they want to have compared the gamer sample with the set of people who spend the same number of hours per day watching TV. And ditto with the set of people who spend the same number of hours per day reading.

5:19 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger John Markley said...

Thank you for commenting on this. The way introversion is endlessly treated as an illness drives me up the wall.

Joe,

"Being an introvert, I've long concluded that extroverts have absolutely no clue what makes us tick."

Precisely. A huge chunk of the population just can't conceive of a person who actually likes to spend a lot of time alone and isn't "broken" in some way- be it medically, psychologically, or morally.

7:54 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger Ern said...

For the record, I'm not a gamer, I'm fifty-seven years old, I'm not overweight (my Tanita scale registered 17% body-fat this morning), and I'm extremely introverted. I do suffer from depression, which I am able to control by taking one 20 mg Prozac capsule every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

With that out of the way, I don't know where to start on the problems with this report, which, as others have noted, may not reflect the actual study. The average age is thirty-five. Does that mean that there were more gamers in their thirties than in their twenties or forties, etc., or does it just mean that thirty-five is the mean? There's a big difference between a distribution with a mean of thirty-five and a standard deviation of twenty years and one with a mean of thirty-five and a standard deviation of five years. I'd also note that having a minimum age of nineteen and a maximum age of ninety for the group surveyed probably made it unlikely that the mean age of gamers would be much lower than thirty-five.

Th article's first paragraph states that "the average player is aged 35, often overweight, introverted and may be depressed". Let's ignore the incorrect grammar (faulty parallelism). Later the article says "(w)omen who played video games reported greater levels of depression." Are we to assume that men who played video games did not report greater levels of depression? I think that it would have been worth noting if that had been the case.

As others have noted, the suggestion that introversion is dysfunctional is also, at best, questionable, as is the assumption that anybody who is "overweight" is actually fat and out of shape. A study of professional football players would probably reveal that the vast majority of them are overweight, according to BMI calculations.

9:40 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

many football players are fat and out of shape...but they get payed large amounts of money for doing simple things effectively, and frankly i think it`s unfair to dedicated athletes to even characterise many of them as such.

societies potential problem with the introvert is the lack of contibution to society while the introvert is inside playing x-box or sleeping on the couch or otherwise not being involved in society.

many of us have felt what could be considered depression. for me it was during the esarly phase of my recent seperation.

not being able to see my children or sleep in my own bed or drive my car or even play my guitars took it`s toll on my desire to be involved in life.

during those first few months i spent more time indoors, on my own, than at any time in my life.....but exercise, soccer and general adaptation to my new life...and seeing my children regularly again, got me back on my feet.

i could see that, if things hadn`t worked out as well for me, i could have descended further into isolation and depression, but i am disciplined in sport and exercise, and i kept some clients on through that period, so my eye was always on a return to a more gregarious lifestyle.

is it healthy to play video games 24/7 for extended periods? who`s to say...and if you are gainful and happy while still being able to life that way....then who`s to judge.

i have a friend who`s a day-trader and he sits in front of a computer all day watching numbers with the hope of making money....and he doesn`t even get to shoot aliens.

is that healthy?

again, who knows.

1:13 AM, August 23, 2009  
Blogger Kevin M said...

I never took to video games, pinball or any other electronically-supported form of entertainment. But the social stereotypes and stigma that follow gamers amuses me much as the "clear indication" that some adult who "lives in his mother's basement" is profoundly defective and a deserving target for mockery and abuse.

As soon as you say gamers are geek losers, in strolls someone like Timothy McGee (NCIS character) with a Ph.D. in something you can't even pronounce from M.I.T. and a 7-figure salary.

Frankly, if I had a kid that spent more than 2 hours a week in front of an X-box, I'd throw him into a snowbank. That doesn't mean I think he's stupid...just that I suspect he'd enjoy the change of scenery.

9:31 AM, August 23, 2009  
Blogger Locomotive Breath said...

Extroverts define introverts as abnormal. In my book, what's abnormal is not being able to stand yourself so that you can't handle being alone.

S'ok, while they're out partying, we're inventing (and getting rich off of) the next generation of technology. We'll cry all the way to the bank.

10:38 AM, August 23, 2009  
Blogger Connie du Toit said...

My sense is that it is a self-selecting pool. People who are introverted are more prone to be depressed (because the basic assumption of "introvert" is someone who is introspective) and be home more, looking for connection and entertainment options from home. Extroverts, by definition, are out and about and are not as likely to be home as much, so they're not as likely to be engaging in activities at home. That seems like simple, connect-the-dots logic to me.

The article is attempting to show that video game playing is causal to obesity and/or depression. Just the reverse is more likely to be true. If video games didn't exist they'd be home playing solitaire or reading. Depressives and introverts are also more likely to read, but I doubt that anyone would suggest that reading causes obesity and depression.

11:44 AM, August 23, 2009  
Blogger Kim said...

35 isn't old. But it is too old to be spending 18 hours a day playing fantasy games on the Internet.

11:57 AM, August 23, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

I'll say it, excessive reading causes depression and obesity.

I was at a bookstore recently. One employee was bragging to another that she read X amount of books over the weekend. She felt she had done something noble and exemplary by spending all her spare time reading books. She weighed about 500 pounds.

If you don't move and eat more calories than you burn you will get fat. Moderation is the key. Oh, and if you read book after book after book, but do nothing with your life and spend most of your time in dreamland thinking about what book you are going to read next are you really living?

I explained to the fat girl at the book store she is spending all her time reading about other people who have lives and do stuff. Books, video games, television, computers, I don't see the difference.

12:09 PM, August 23, 2009  
Blogger tomcal said...

I'll admit it, I'm 51, an age I used to consider old. While at the doctor's yesterday getting a biopsy of a bump that was growing out of my face, the thought that it turn out to be something serious made me kind of sad, and a BMI chart on the wall said that at 6'2" and 210, I am "overweight".

Whether it is gaming or doing research on the phychology of old fat sad people, I have noticed that these computers allow a far more sedentary lifestyle than was possible 20 years ago. It used to be you at least had to get up off the couch and open a dictionary to learn the meaning of a word. Now I can reasearch almost anything, and barely move a muscle.

I can usually get my kids to bring me things to eat, so the only real reason to get up is to go to the bathroom.

Even my favorite hobby, long range shooting, has become more sedentary. My sessions at the range are only necessary to validate ballistic solutions I calculate on this machine. And as I am learning that its solutions are only inches off at a ranges of over 1000 yards, why bother to go?

The answer is the social aspect of it. When I do go, I enjoy the social aspect of my hobby much more. I don't have to fire as many shots as I used to to find a solution, and that leaves a lot more time to bullshit with the guys, most of whom are old, fat, and at our age in this economy, usually have something to feel sad about.

4:15 PM, August 23, 2009  
Blogger Oligonicella said...

Kim, what age is appropriate for 18 hours a day fantasy games? None. Your point would be what?

BMI is nonsense. At 205, I was told I was overweight by a pudgy doctor who couldn't point to the fat. I was 205 because I was running a stunt show. Nonsense.

I was very much an extrovert at that point and now I'm more or less an introvert. Intro/extroversion is not a condition, it's what you're deciding to do.

Nonsense, all of it.

4:18 PM, August 23, 2009  
Blogger br549 said...

In what I do for a living, I am often pressed to get "published", to write some sort of enlightening article for one of the numerous trade magazines in the various industries my company participates in. Meh. I fight it tooth and nail.

All things considered, it looks like an author or two are trying to draw attention to themselves - or have been told to "get published".

9:03 PM, August 23, 2009  
Blogger BeltainAmerica said...

Having totally embraced the gaming culture when I got divorced almost 10 years ago. Also one of the main reasons my marriage fell into divorce was in fact on-line gaming. Not really from spending too much time playing but from the hundreds of contacts my wife kept getting in game. It was constant and eventually lead her to more than one on-line romance while I was at work.

After my divorce I was in a little apartment with no cable as I never watch TV really and no yard work or honey do's so I started playing EQ and later WoW pretty hardcore. It was cheaper than going out and kept my mind off dating again which I really didn't want to get rung out again in the courts anyway. And I was in my mid thirties then like the study says.

Bottom line what kept me playing to excess was that for once here was something I could do that was fair across the board. My skill or ability to analyze was the main thing that mattered. Unlike the real world where no matter how hard I tried I couldn't beat the special bonus given to another who was a different color or gender. In the online world my hard work paid off... or appeared to it is all a fairy tale of course but the appearance of gain was what I needed.

I do not think I am alone in that aspect of gaming today. Almost everyone I knew online had simular accounts of utter failure and needed the more readily available false accomplishments of the gaming world.

Once I gained custody of my son and was out from under the crippeling child support payments I easily broke away from the gaming world and haven't even had an account in almost 2 years.

It is interesting that no one has ever studied the effects of real life failures that encourage online play. I think the results would surprise a great many people.

12:01 AM, August 24, 2009  
Blogger Zach said...

"I do not think I am alone in that aspect of gaming today. Almost everyone I knew online had simular accounts of utter failure and needed the more readily available false accomplishments of the gaming world."

I have to agree with the overall point of Beltain's post, digital worlds are the great equalizer. You are what you create and you are judged only by skill and ability (i,e, time and more time).
Does it replace real-life, for me no, for others it may have. It certainly enhanced my life though I only log on for updates and patches anymore. My best friend met his wife playing WoW, I learned more about people then I expected (esp. people I thought I knew).

It is what it is, a game. Gambling, boozing, being a 'playa' all seem to have worse potential outcomes than running Dire Maul for the 20th time. If you are an adult enjoy responsibly, I did and I think I am better for the experience. When my life was at its lowest I met people who I like better than nearly everyone I graduated HS with. Everyone needs something to see them through the tough times and all things equal, WoW beats heroin.

Z.

2:44 AM, August 24, 2009  
Blogger SavvyD said...

Anything that causes you to be chronically sedentary is going to be a problem. I blog too damn much! Even introverts need social time. I'm one of those people who has a talent for bring introverts out of their shells and I enjoy them very much--If only they would stop gaming and hang out with me because I'm really terrible at those games so I have no interest or inclination.

4:08 AM, August 24, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

I game just about every day. I play Everquest II and really enjoy it. My 14 year old daughter and 6 year old son (well, one of them) play with me pretty often. I usually play after the rest of the family has gone to bed and my wife is reading in bed.

I need time just by myself every day. My job is very personally taxing, and having three 6 year olds is, well, personally taxing as well! Game time is fun time for me, by myself. That and reading blogs are my most solitary pursuits.

I think this is just another "those darn kids" articles that come out every so often. They used to be about rocknroll.

Trey

8:31 AM, August 24, 2009  
Blogger Professor Hale said...

I am pushing 50. I have enjoyed gomputer games since before the desktop PC was invented, and board games before that. But I don't play games that require subscriptions online. I am chubby and introverted.

But If I lived in Seatle/Tacoma, I think I would be spending even more time indoors.

8:57 AM, August 24, 2009  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

hmm. i`m 6 foot 2 and about 210 and, while i have put on a few pounds this summer, i can still see my abs...so whatever metrics the doctors are using to guage obesity needs to be seriously looked at...and i would be heavier from the weight training, but i ride my bike and play soccer too much to keep muscle.

and i`m too busy doing things to spend much time on x-box, though ocassionally i will sit with my kids when it` s raining out and we can`t get to the park.

regarding the introvert/extrovert thing, i`m not sure where i stand. i`m outdoors most of the time. at work or riding or walking with my girlfriend or playing soccer with my teams...but i don`t socialise with other riders or drink with my soccer teams...and i see my clients and have conversations with friends over coffee. but that`s about it.

i gues that would make me a socialised introvert i suppose.

8:59 AM, August 24, 2009  
Blogger Pluto's Dad said...

"I've long concluded that extroverts have absolutely no clue what makes us tick. At best they learn to cope with us, at worse they see introvertedness as a disease or disorder."

I think that's the number one reason I break up with women, they think I can change into an extrovert, and say "I don't understand why you can't just act different" huh? I mean changing for your partner is one thing, changing who you fundamentally are is something different, and many people assume people SHOULD be like them, whether it's extroversion, or following their particular moral code, or whatever.

9:53 AM, August 24, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

Pluto's Dad:

Let's talk about asking an introvert to change. I'm not accusing you of this but I want to take an example. Being an introvert is one thing, using it as an excuse for behaving badly is another.

Let's say your partner has an important event where he/she wants you to come. You say: "I refuse to go, I'm an introvert." You think that you have a worthy excuse for not doing something you don't want to do. It is your partner's fault for even asking you to attend. But that isn't the way your partner will view it. He/she will think, "Gee, I really need my SO to attend this thing, now I am going to look like a fool because I have to go alone."

We all have our little quirks. In relationships we often have to make adjustments to our own idiosyncrasies....ie compromise. If you aren't willing to do so, you might as well not date. No sense in expecting your SO to conform 100% of the time to your special needs.

10:21 AM, August 24, 2009  
Blogger JG said...

Cham, I think I'd rather have an introverted partner than a bossy partner who is convinced she is always right and has to always "teach" the other partner.

Ya know what I mean?

10:31 AM, August 24, 2009  
Blogger JG said...

It boggles the mind when women tell men they probably shouldn't date ... any OTHER women ... because the men don't meet the specifications of the woman who is currently teaching (read: belittling) the man.

10:32 AM, August 24, 2009  
Blogger BarryD said...

Could it be that Seattle is dominated by fat, depressed slackers who never quite grew up?

You'd have to study gamers in other places, given that geography involves a great deal of self-selection in the modern US -- especially in cities where it seems that most residents are not native to the area.

12:47 PM, August 24, 2009  
Blogger Brian Crouch said...

If the "average player" is 35, overweight, introverted and depressed, what is a "below average" player like?

1:36 PM, August 24, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

Or an "above average" player!

Trey

1:47 PM, August 24, 2009  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

as a socialised intravert (i think.) i really dislike wedding receptions. i can manage the first hour or so, and can actually get myself in a place where i look forward to the event, but three or four hours in a banquet hall eating rubber food and drinking vinegar, listening to god-awful music and watching people dance....

no.

so my girlfriend says ok, come to the wedding and hold my hand and i`ll take my daughter to the reception.

l love that girl.

2:29 PM, August 24, 2009  
Blogger Sloan said...

I’m 47, happily married, with a son in college and a daughter in high school, and I’m somewhat introverted. Always have been. I just enjoy my “alone time.” And I have been playing computer games since I bought my first PC in 1987. It’s always been a way for me to relax and unwind.

I also struggle with depression. But computer games did not cause or contribute to my depression; it was triggered by a series of life events about eight years ago that sent me into an emotional tailspin, combined with certain hormone problems and a family history of depression. I’m managing it all and doing much better now.

Throughout it all, computer games have been a way not only of disengaging myself momentarily from the worries and stresses of daily life, but also a way of connecting with my son, who is also an avid gamer. We have always played games together, and we both have high-level characters on World of Warcraft and we’re in a terrific guild. The guild has been a source of social interaction for us, and I’ve even met one of our guild members IRL (“in real life”) on a trip to Wisconsin. My son and I enjoy discussing strategies, equipment, plans for leveling up…and it’s prompted us to open up to each other and communicate about other things as well. If anything, I’d say gaming has enriched my life, not damaged it. I still enjoy hanging out with friends, I still enjoy being with my wife and family. Like anything, gaming can be abused. How many guys use the golf course as a means of avoiding problems? Or model railroading? Or reading?

I once went on a horseback ride with my family, and there was another family there where the father had brought a book with him. Throughout the entire ride – through the woods, along the beach, and back to the stables – he read this book. IN THE SADDLE. Now THERE’S a guy with a problem.

One ironic thing about this is that I’m a CDC employee! Sometimes I’m embarrassed at the some of the tomfoolery in which my own agency is involved, all in the name of “public health.” I'd like to find the folks who published this study and frost-shock their asses.

;-)

Sloan

10:48 AM, August 25, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

Sloan, ever try Everquest II? I have not tried WoW, but I understand that there are less obnoxious teens on EQ2 and the game is a little more challenging and engaging.

And you can try for free!

I understand that you have a great guild, and that is very difficult to replace, but give Evercrack a try.

Trey

10:53 PM, August 25, 2009  

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