Fun, but not inclusive: How the public perceives video games in 2021

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
June 21, 2021, 7:34 PM GMT+0

Video game publishers – as well as the gaming community – have made strides in recent years to become more inclusive, yet few consumers see video games that way.

A global survey conducted in 17 key markets shows just 8% would describe video games as “inclusive,” coming in last place among the eight words presented to respondents, who are both gamers and non-gamers.

Inclusivity, of course, means different things to different people. Looking at game design itself, it means taking into consideration a player’s demographics – gender, physical ability, race, language ability, or other facets.

(Separate YouGov Profiles data out of the United States shows Hispanic and Asian Americans are more likely than white Americans to play video games. Also, two in five women play video games.)

Large and indie publishers appear to be aware of the general attitude around representative video games and are making steps to make games more diverse. Ubisoft allows players to control a female character as the main protagonist in its latest Assassin's Creed title, and Naughty Dog’s Last of Us Part II allows players to play as an openly gay teenager. Related, recent efforts have been made to making the world of esports more welcoming to women. Riot Games has taken steps recently, including a tournament initiative to supplement the competitive season by highlighting women and people of marginalized genders.

Among the 17 markets in which YouGov conducted this survey, those in France (22%) and Denmark (14%) are the most likely to see video games as inclusive.

Roughly half (49%) of global consumers characterize video games as fun and 35% deem them relaxing. We also found 40% view video games as addictive and 20% would describe them as immersive.

Close to one in five consumers around the world view video games as social (17%). During the COVID-19 pandemic, video games became a major part of people’s social lives. This is no better demonstrated than by the COVID-fueled popularity of the online multiplayer deduction game Among Us, the quiz-based party game packs by Jackbox and of course the social simulation game Animal Crossing: New Horizon.

Notably, just 15% of consumers (who are not necessarily gamers themselves) view video games as violent, suggesting the decades-long stigma around the industry may be fading.

The survey takes a pulse of video games sentiment around the world, among the general public, which is valuable insight as the sector continues to expand its customer base.

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Methodology: The data is based on the interviews of adults aged 18 and over in 17 markets with sample sizes varying between 511 and 2,093 for each market. All interviews were conducted online in May 2021. Data from each market uses a nationally representative sample apart from Mexico and India, which use urban representative samples, and Indonesia and Hong Kong, which use online representative samples.

Image: Getty