People enjoy playing games. They have for centuries. Board games, cards, dice, and conversational competitions have been and still are a major part of our recreational repertoire. But games have received an upgrade in recent decades. The dawn of the digital world has spawned a host of electronic games, such as arcade games, console video games, computer (PC) games, and mobile games, all of which have upped the ante in terms of how we spend our free time.
But this new genre of games elicits an interesting question. Do people actually enjoy electronic gaming over traditional table games? Since Pong’s first release in 1972, electronic gaming has created its own multi-billion dollar market (Webb, 2019). But many still hold the view that electronic gaming is a waste of time. In fact, a majority (59%) of respondents to a Pew Research poll indicated so for some or most video games (Duggan, 2015). Perhaps these diverging viewpoints and differences in video game enjoyment can be explained by gender or generational differences.
Although we can’t settle the score on this debate, we can at least advance it to the next level with a research study.
Game Enjoyment was our variable of interest, specifically “To what extent do you enjoy playing the following types of games? (1 = Not at all, 7 = Very Much).” The following types of games were listed, with the first four aggregated for our variable “Table Games” and the latter four “Video Games”:
Console Video games
PC (Computer) Games
Mobile Phone Games
400 Amazon MTurk participants took part in a Qualtrics survey asking about their feelings toward various types of table games and video games, specifically to what extent they enjoy playing certain types of games on a 1-7 scale. For table games, we included board games, card games, dice games, and conversation games. For video games, we included arcade/retro games, console video games, PC (computer) games, and mobile phone games. We analyzed each of the eight specific types of games, as well as their aggregated groupings (i.e., table games vs. video games). The multi-item survey question is illustrated below.
Results We have a winner! In our sample, people seem to enjoy video games more than table games, with average ratings of 4.68 vs. 3.96 and a significant difference of 0.721 on a 1-7 scale (p < 0.001). But interesting differences surfaced between age groups and genders, particularly for specific types of games.
The chart below summarizes the ratings for each specific type of game. People tend to enjoy console video games and PC games most, whereas dice games and conversations games are enjoyed the least.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, age and gender also affect the enjoyability of certain types of games. Video games are most enjoyed by the younger generations and men. For each additional year of age, a respondent’s enjoyment of video games decreased, on average, by 0.036 points on a 1-7 scale (p < 0.001). For example, we’d expect a 20-year old respondent to rate their enjoyment of video games as 5.30, but a 60 year-old respondent to rate their enjoyment as 3.88. For men, there was a 0.41 higher rated enjoyment of video games than women (p = 0.004).
However, the specific type of video game matters. The difference in game enjoyment between younger and older people was much more pronounced in console video games and PC video games. For each additional year of age, enjoyment of console video games and PC video games decreased by 0.061 (p < 0.001) and 0.043 (p < 0.001), respectively. For mobile phone games, enjoyment differed significantly between men and women—although men enjoy arcade, console, and PC video games significantly more than women, this relationship was reversed for mobile phone games, which women enjoy significantly more (diff = 0.61; p = 0.002).
The results of our survey suggest that video games are enjoyed more than table games, and that gender and age play a significant role in these differences. Men and younger people tend to like video games more. But whichever type of game you like, there are plenty out there to enjoy.
In order to test for significant differences in enjoyment, we used ordinary least-squares regression analysis. For differences that are “statistically significant,” meaning that we can be 95% confident the difference we found isn’t just due to chance, the “p-value” should be small. If the p-value is less than 0.05, we consider the difference statistically significant.