Socialising, Mental Health And Stress Relief: Why Aussies Play Video Games

Socialising, Mental Health And Stress Relief: Why Aussies Play Video Games
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Kids and adults, young and old, for recreation and for rehabilitation – video games are now firmly cemented into the daily lives of Australians, with new research showing 67 per cent of us are gaming.

Smashing the stereotype of “mindless fun”, video games are increasingly turned to as a way to stimulate, socialise and positively benefit mental health.

The research is a collaboration between Bond University and the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association. It found 97 per cent of Australian households with children have video game devices, with eight out of 10 owning multiple game devices. Almost half of parents play games online with their kids, with reasons for playing together including family enjoyment, education, and as a way to monitor what children play.

The report, Digital Australia 2018 looked at the gaming habits of 1,234 Australian households and 3,135 individuals, with 67 per cent putting their hands up as gamers. Older Australians make up the largest group of new players over the past six years – 43 per cent of people aged 65 are playing video games. Women account for 46 per cent of all players.

The average age of players has increased by a year to 34, and the reasons for playing are also shifting.

“The fun continues through interactive games, but the research shows that games increasingly serve other uses,” said Dr Jeff Brand, Professor at Bond University and lead author of the report.

“Australians are playing for social connectedness, whether that be with family or friends. They’re playing to reduce stress, to be challenged, to learn, to keep the mind active, or for physical and mental health benefits.”

Dr Brand says everyone finds their own reason for playing, and the research shows that motives for playing video games differ by life stages. Young adults play to help pass time, have fun, and de-stress, whereas older Australians, while also playing for enjoyment and to pass time, report keeping the mind active as a top reason for playing.

The Digital Australia study, which has been running since 2005, also highlights just how social game play has become. This year’s report found only eight per cent of Australians play alone, with the remaining 92 per cent playing with friends, partners, family and strangers online at least once in a while.

Most players share their enjoyment of games with others in the community through various methods. Seven in 10 Australian players have watched videos and used walkthroughs to help their gameplay and more than a quarter have posted their own videos of gameplay. Australians also enjoy watching other people play games, particularly at a competitive level with a third watching esports.

“Games are no longer a subculture – everyone plays. We’ve moved far beyond the classic cliches that dogged video games in their early years,” said Dr Brand. “Interactive games are woven into the fabric of our culture – a culture more nuanced and capable of enjoying the benefits of the digital economy than ever before.”

Ron Curry, CEO of IGEA, said the Digital Australia 2018 report shows how the state of game play in Australia has progressed – that games are one of the many things shaking up traditional viewing culture, and Australians are consuming games in more ways than ever before.

“We’re also playing with purpose,” Curry says. “with more and more Australians recognising the value of games, beyond entertainment, in the family home, schools, workplaces and socially.”