Americans Spend Far Less Time Playing Games Than You Think

With obsessive coverage of the industry and parents still worrying about the effect that violent graphics could have on their children, one might assume that kids these days are spending all afternoon and evening in front of the television. Well, they are, to the tune of five hours and eleven minutes a day. But only about 13 minutes of that time is spent using a video game console.

That's about enough time to "get in a game and a half of Call of Duty Black Ops," according to Forbes' Paul Tassi. I wouldn't know. And that's the catch. Nielsen's new report, "State of the Media: U.S. TV Trends by Ethnicity," looked at usage patterns for a large sample of Americans between the ages of 18 and 49 this past November and came up with those results, which average video game console time across the entire sample. My guess would be that there are a bunch of middle-aged men and women who aren't participating in the latest Wii Fitness craze (my own mother excluded), thereby bringing the average time spent by the 18 to 20-something crowd down to respectable levels. Nielsen doesn't get into the specifics there. They do, though, break down the average time by ethnicity.

At 16 minutes per day, African Americans spend more time playing video games through a console attached to a television than any of the other groups that Nielsen broke the sample into. Hispanics spent an average of 10 minutes per day, while Asians averaged just nine minutes. Whites matched the sample average with 13 minutes.

Tassi expects that the numbers will jump dramatically in Nielsen's next attempt to conduct a similar survey "as a generation raised on video games transitions into adulthood." "No, I might not have time for eight hour Halo binges anymore," he wrote, "but I'll definitely be playing more video games than my parents, that's for sure."

I don't know that I'm convinced, though. As the generation Tassi speaks of ages, they'll continue to play video games, sure. But I don't believe that they'll spend that time in front of a television using a traditional console. Expect the focus to shift, from both television-based games and PC gaming, to handheld, which has proven popular among a generation raised not just on video games, but on both video games and portable electronics. The success of Angry Birds over the past year and Zynga's astronomical growth on Facebook proves that a social, gaming-on-the-go industry is in a comfortable place and positioned for expansion.