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Average Gamer Is 35, Fat and Bummed 439

Posted by Soulskill
from the fun-also-causes-cancer dept.
kamapuaa writes "According to a study published in the upcoming October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the average US video game player is 35 years old, overweight, and tends toward depression. Specifically, female video game players tended towards depression, while males tended towards large BMIs. While the study itself points to several conclusions, one researcher noted: '... habitual use of video games as a coping response may provide a genesis for obsessive-compulsive video-game playing, if not video-game addiction.'" On the flip side, the Washington Post is running a story about the mental health benefits of playing video games.

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Average Gamer Is 35, Fat and Bummed

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:46AM (#29119599)
    Video games as coping mechanism. That's an interesting way of looking at this. I found that when I played World of Warcraft, that's exactly what it was. It allowed me to cope with not having a girlfriend and deaden my emotions to the outside world. In that sense it became very addictive. I think it would probably be very similar to drinking alcohol or some drug.

    It's funny because WoW is the only game that did that to me. I'm glad I stopped playing because now I don't feel like an automaton (gradually regaining my humanity), but I really feel bad for all the people who are like me who are still playing for that reason. I think WoW is a great game if you can just play it as a game to have fun, but I'm just not one of those people.

    Funnily enough I can still play console games without any problems, they are not the same at all. Perhaps it's just pseudo social aspect, or the feeling while playing WoW that you are forced to grind (e.g. it's out of your control). An interesting thing that will probably be studied by psychologists for years to come.
  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:47AM (#29119607) Journal

    I don't understand these studies about addictive gamers who are depressed, lonely, blah blah blah. Gaming, like watching tv dramas or sports or news, or listening to the radio or ipod, is simply a way to pass the time. Why gaming would make someone depressed makes zero sense to me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:48AM (#29119633)

    35, Fat, and Bummed? Or something close?

  • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sakdoctor (1087155) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:50AM (#29119671) Homepage

    I think you could probably replace gamer with "person" and still be accurate.
    At least in the developed world, where age distribution tends to bulge out at around 35-40. Waistlines bulge out at around the same time, just in time for a mid-life crisis.

  • Makes sense. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sj0 (472011) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:54AM (#29119753) Homepage Journal

    In order to self-identify as a gamer, you've got to have a certain mindset to begin with. "I play video games, and that's the most important thing in my life". When you're a teenager that's fine, since most teens don't exactly have the resources to go out and have a real life, but when you're 35, you should be at the point where your other dreams are coming true.

    I play video games, a lot. I've spent hundreds of dollars on them this year and spent hundreds of hours in them. However, I don't self-identify as a gamer as such, because it's not the central tenet of my lifestyle, nor a major frame of reference for my personality.

    The article doesn't tell exactly how they differentiate the two. If it's by self-identification, the problem I've already mentioned crops up. If it's by number of hours spent, it's a poorly designed study to determine the effects of video games, because it's simply axiomatic that if you are more introverted, you'll spend more time doing activities alone.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @11:08AM (#29119965)

    I don't understand these studies about addictive gamers who are depressed, lonely, blah blah blah. Gaming, like watching tv dramas or sports or news, or listening to the radio or ipod, is simply a way to pass the time. Why gaming would make someone depressed makes zero sense to me.

    I think the bit about "coping mechanism" is key. If we look at alcoholism, there are some people who are genetically predispositioned to be hooked. Those are the people whose problem is drinking itself. You'll have others who use alcohol as the coping mechanism. Could have been alcohol, could have been some other form of escapism. Plenty of normal people can enjoy alcohol without either becoming addicted or otherwise abusing it. The problem is not alcohol but how we use it.

    I don't think you'll find anyone who could say bad things about books but lots of us geeks used them as coping mechanisms when we were young. I never related well with my classmates so I just retreated into my books. While it certainly did wonders for my vocabulary, it stunted my social development. You can never avoid dealing with people while having a successful life, not unless you can pull off being a JD Salinger or make your fortune before you go all Howard Hughes.

    Video games do have an addictive component to them, just like gambling. It's an addictive behavior. Some people are naturally susceptible to getting sucked in to all that. A friend of mine mailed his whole game collection home from college after he realized he lost an entire day while playing one. His roommate flunked out thanks to Diablo. Could have just as easily been thanks to booze and partying but shit, they were in the engineering program.

    So, back to your original question. People who lack self-control and fall into addictive behaviors can become sad and depressed because they fucked up their lives thanks to a stupid game. I'm sure we all remember reading about World of Warcraft and Evercrack flameouts here on Slashdot, threw away marriages and careers over the damn game. Then there's people who are already sad and depressed and frustrated with the world and escape into video games so that they can find a place where they feel they are in control. There was a good article discussing this very social mechanism in South Korea. You can also see this sort of thing with the otaku in Japan who end up becoming shut-ins, I forget the name for that. It's a severe social avoidance phobia where they lock themselves in their rooms and passive Japanese parenting approaches allow the state to persist for years. In Western countries this sort of thing would sooner rather than later lead to a violent confrontation and kicking the kid out of the house.

  • I dunno... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @11:44AM (#29120533) Journal

    Well, that _some_ people will play it as some great escape from a shitty reality, is I suppose true of anything else. Equally I know someone who' a workaholic to escape the rest of reality, and pretty much because work is the only place where he's appreciated. Other people go fishing to escape reality, or spend hours tuning their car, or whatever else.

    On the other hand, I only need to look at my parents who took to WoW like to cocaine. And, you know, they're a lot over 35 and not exactly the stereotypical image of the lonely gamer or slashdotter either. You know, what with one of them being a woman, and both of them having gotten laid before (or I wouldn't be here.)

    The other die-hard gamers I know, most are married, the majority are of average weight, and one is pencil-thin. Only one was obese, but the key word is "was." (Suspiciously, he started exercising after someone sent around a link to a study saying that the obese and smokers cost the health insurance less because they die a lot earlier;)

    So I just have to wonder. Maybe they just saw that the average gamer was fat and depressed because the average person wherever the study was done was fat and depressed?

  • by Gord.ca (236984) <ghpollock@@@stud ... ..uwaterloo...ca> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @11:48AM (#29120603)

    I guess most people didn't catch the significance of Andrews University...

    Two of the study's coauthours (Wendi Kannenberg, Gary L. Hopkins) are from Andrews University Institute for Prevention of Addictions [andrews.edu]. Andrews is a Christian university run by a denomination which doesn't accept evolution. I've spoken to a prof from their biology department, apparently it's a bastion of the Intelligent Design movement. (Here's a book [amazon.com] published by Andrews University Press).

    I'm not saying that proponents of intelligent design and those around them are incapable of doing serious scientific research. I'm thinking this might partially explain what feels like an anti-gamer bias.

    The joys of crowdsourcing...

  • Re:Hmm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vertinox (846076) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @11:59AM (#29120707)

    At least in the developed world, where age distribution tends to bulge out at around 35-40. Waistlines bulge out at around the same time, just in time for a mid-life crisis.

    Specifically you mean the United States world... Other developed nations do not have our problem for one reason or another.

    Basically our lifestyle really only works for people 18-30, but after that we fall apart.

    Now take someone living in Japan and you'll see that they don't have our obesity and health problems. Probably because they don't use cars as much as we do and use their nice public transportation and walk a lot and their diet consists of generally healthy things like fish.

    I'm sure the same can be said of many European countries...

    Whereas we Americans drive everywhere and walk rarely and eat tons of unhealthy processed foods containing lots of fats and corn syrup which we can push through our bodies when young but not so much when we get old. I think for many Americans we simply don't understands how our body changes so we keep plugging along like we did as before but its not feasible.

    I mean I've put on a few pounds after 30, but I've actually made a conscious effort to not eat like I did young and so far its working out pretty good. Yes it makes me kind of sad I can't have a 4am binge of 30 white castle burgers after a night of drinking but I guess we have to grow up sometime.

  • Re:Makes sense. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ephemeriis (315124) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:00PM (#29120727)

    In order to self-identify as a gamer, you've got to have a certain mindset to begin with. "I play video games, and that's the most important thing in my life".

    Negative.

    I self-identify as a gamer, but not because playing video games is the most important think in my life. In fact, video games are a fairly small portion of the gaming I do. I also play plenty of pen & paper RPGs, tabletop games, CCGs...

    I also self-identify as a reader - because I like reading, not because it is the most important thing in my life.

    I also self-identify as a computer geek or computer nerd - again, because that is a part of my life, not the most important thing.

    I could keep going, but there isn't much point. If I were to self-identify as only the thing that I feel is most important in my life, I would only self-identify as a husband. But that doesn't really tell you a whole heck of a lot about me, does it?

    When you're a teenager that's fine, since most teens don't exactly have the resources to go out and have a real life

    I have to disagree again here. Since when do resources dictate what's the most important thing in your life? Maybe your most common diversion... Most readily available entertainment... But most important thing?

    I'd suggest that many (most?) teenagers find their friendships more important than their video games. Or maybe they're preoccupied with learning to drive and getting a car. Or maybe they're looking for their first job. Maybe they just want to pass a class.

    Sure, lots of teens play lots of games. But I doubt if many of them would identify that as the most important thing in their lives.

    but when you're 35, you should be at the point where your other dreams are coming true.

    Maybe. Depending on what those dreams are. Depending on what life throws at you.

    I play video games, a lot. I've spent hundreds of dollars on them this year and spent hundreds of hours in them. However, I don't self-identify as a gamer as such, because it's not the central tenet of my lifestyle, nor a major frame of reference for my personality.

    No?

    Do you know who Gordon Freeman is? Is the cake a lie? Would you chuckle at a shirt that read "iddqd"? Do you know who Shodan is? Or Cortana? Do you recognize the Mario theme music? Or the Zelda got-a-cool-item sound?

    These are all references that non-gamers don't understand, and gamers do. They do influence your personality whether you like it or not.

  • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:09PM (#29120847) Journal

    Actually, sad to break this to you, but just about everything you do in your free time is simply "passing time." Whether it's watching TV, playing a game, chatting at the pub, going mountaineering, tuning your car, reading a book, going to the theatre, or whatever else. There's a reason it's called a "passtime". Get it? "Pass" and "time"? Ring a bell yet?

    So, yes, unless you spend every waking moment _working_ on something, then yes, you too are just "passing time" a lot.

    And by "work", I mean as in you actually expect to sell it or otherwise get a tangible return on investment, and primarily for that return on investment. If it's just one of the intangible and impossible to measure benefits used as excuses for why your hobby is better than his, sad to break it to you, but it's still just a hobby. You're still doing it to pass the time.

    So get off the high horse, drop the snotty self-importance, and realize that yes you too pass the time. Waiting to die or something? Then why do you try to project that idiocy on others?

  • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:12PM (#29120899) Homepage

    Games are pretty much the easiest way to be "successful". In FPS games you're Rambo, in RPGs you're a hero, in RTS/TBS a mastermind, take your pick. If you fail at life in general, you can always play games as long as you got ramen noodles and 15$/month for WoW. And the longer it's been since you've done something, the harder it gets. If you haven't exercised in a while and you're in bad shape, starting up is hell. So you keep getting fatter, you lose self-confidence and start retracting from social life or at least the real world part where people see you. Then that becomes a reason for not doing hygiene or decent clothes and it all keeps getting longer and longer from being successful. Or any one of a million other variations of coming into such an evil circle.

    It's exactly the same way in reverse. People with a good body will dress in "look at me" clothes. Or they'll exercise to fit the clothes, particularly for the summer season. They'll keep getting attention and positive feedback that keeps them self-confident and continue to enjoy social life and keep it up. Maybe those failing out should have gotten some more honest feedback to see the warning signs in time, but it's hard even with friends. Most of the time people are just allowed to fade out because drawing attention to it might just make it all more embarrassing and cause an even quicker withdrawal. I think many of the gaming addicts aren't that addicted to the game as such, but they've cut off every other bridge out.

  • Re:Is it me? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lusiphur69 (455824) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:14PM (#29120935) Homepage

    The sample set is exclusively 19-90 year olds living in the greater Seattle area.
    Do people younder than 19 not play video games? This was a very sloppy study, probably a small survey done over the phone or web, and no, 500 is not a large enough sample size to draw MEANINGFUL correlations.

    Unless they amend it to - Average Seattle ADULT gamer.

  • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:21PM (#29121087)

    Now take someone living in Japan and you'll see that they don't have our obesity and health problems. Probably because they don't use cars as much as we do and use their nice public transportation and walk a lot and their diet consists of generally healthy things like fish.

    That and they tend to kill themselves [timesonline.co.uk] before they can become part of the statistic.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:36PM (#29121417)
    Everyone has SOME form of escape in their lives. Some are just healthier than others. Personally, I think videogames are pretty mild compared to the dangers of SOME forms of escapism.
  • Taggers fail it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Daetrin (576516) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @01:23PM (#29122281)
    I'm unsure if the majority of the people who tag stories just don't know what "correlation does not imply causation" actually means, or if this is just another case of mass not RTFAing.

    "Correlation does not imply causation" means that if A correlates to B it does not mean that A causes B. But if it's a statistically strong correlation in a well designed experiment then _something_ is causing the relationship. Perhaps A is causing B, perhaps B is causing A, or perhaps some third factor is causing A and B to show up together.

    This study, like many others that have been slandered with the tag, seems to be pretty careful about its terminology. The only reference to a possible causation is actually of the reverse, "One interpretation of the findings, researchers said, is that among women, video-game playing 'may be a form of "digital self-medication."'"

    In another place they state "While the study helps 'illuminate the health consequences of video-game playing,' it is not conclusive, its researchers say, but rather serves to 'reveal important patterns in health-related correlates of video-game playing and highlights avenues for future research.'"

    So not only do they state that it's a statistical correlation and not conclusive proof of causation, they also give specific examples to show that they're considering other possible relationships besides A causing B. Is the "corellationisnotcausation" crowd just not going to be happy until scientists stop doing research altogether?
  • Meaningless study (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BForrester (946915) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @01:41PM (#29122627)

    In other words, US gamers are typical of the general US population, such that
      - most (60%ish) are overweight
      - they are far more likely to be depressed than counterparts from almost every other country
      - the average age is about 35

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @01:56PM (#29122905)

    The way I get around it is learning/trying new useless things. I taught my self to knit, play the guitar, sing, and play with my 1 year old.

    Playing with your child is hardly useless. Having a child certainly detrivializes your life...

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