College students are beginning to play more and more video games. They aren’t alone; a recent gaming industry study showed the average age of gamers is 34 years old — dispelling any notion that video games are kid’s play.
“I play video games probably, on average, for six hours a day,” said Tim Hawes, a University of Arizona junior.
Do the math and that’s an average of 30 hours a week — almost equivalent to a full-time job. But Hawes says he’s not the only one; many of his friends also spend that much time playing video games.
According to the Entertainment Software Association, the video gaming industry generated more than $21 billion in revenue in 2013, outpacing the box office by $10 billion, proving that video games have officially taken over America’s entertainment markets.
“I think the recent breach of technology has definitely made video games more popular,” said Cindy Trieu, president of UA GameDev, a club focused of the development and consumption of modern video games.
Club members collaborate to develop new video games, while working on projects of their own. They also sponsor weekly “gaming nights” where they hold free video gaming available to all UA students.
Recent technology improvements have officially taken video games off of the couch and into a gamer’s hands. Improvements in graphics and hardware in portable platforms such as the Playstation Vita, iPad, Nintendo DS and cell phones allow gamers to play virtually anywhere.
In fact, 2013’s most downloaded free iOS app from the Apple App store – ahead of YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, Snapchat and Instagram – was the free-to-play video game “Candy Crush Saga.” Here, users try to match candy pieces of similar colors in groups of three or more, hoping to “crush” them off the board.
“Any gaming market is a legitimate market,” said Trieu. “Not everyone is into console gaming, not everyone is into PC gaming. If I want to play video games on Facebook, those are still legitimate video games.”
Social networks have had their fair share of game “infiltration”; 40 percent of all user time on Facebook is spent playing social videogames.
According to the Pew study, 20 percent of students who play video games felt moderately or strongly that gaming helped them make new friends as well as improve existing friendships.
“I play games of all types and all different platforms,” said Hawes. “I look at it like this: I can either spend my free time mindlessly watching television, or I can spend it playing video games, most of the time with my friends.”
As with all activities, though, there is a fine line between friendly leisure activities and intrusive habits.
“Just don’t play 24/7,” said Trieu. “If you don’t have anything else to do then definitely go play some games. If you are only in classes and have nothing else to do and don’t want to hang out with your friends on the weekends, then you’ll have time for videogames.”
For some people, balancing class time with video gaming habits has become a struggle.
“I have definitely skipped class to play video games,” said Colby Quist, a UA junior. “I have gone to the store at midnight for a midnight game release and played it up until my 9 a.m. class.”
Nearly half of college student gamers agreed that gaming keeps them from studying “some” or “a lot.” Nearly 10 percent admitted that their main motivation for playing games was to avoid studying, the Pew study showed.
“Sure, I could be doing school work while I play video games. But that’s the case with anything. You have to have other activities or hobbies outside of class and for a lot of us it’s playing games,” said Hawes.
Video gaming can be a costly pastime. Consoles including the PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Wii U can set you back as much as $400. Games can average as much as $60 apiece and some online gaming sites charge monthly user fees, which can quickly become an expensive proposition for average college students.
Cole Malham is a reporter with Arizona Sonora News, a service from the University of Arizona School of Journalism. Contact him at colemalham@