Understanding Video Games text-book
Are Professional Gamers Different? - Survey on online gaming

Date posted: May 16, 2006

By Jeppe Bo Pedersen (jbp@it-c.dk)

(Tables and formatting missing)

In December 2001, the best computer gamers in the world challenged each other in two huge gaming events: The CPL World Championship in Dallas and The World Cyber Games in Seoul, giving away prizes exceeding $500.000 in total. At the same time, Game-Research.com presented a survey hosted by Framfab measuring views on professional gaming, seeking to characterize a possible new breed of sport stars. A month and 420 responses later we began analyzing the results, and it seems that gamers who have an interest in becoming professionals, differ a great deal from other enthusiastic gamers. They are younger and they are in broad terms dedicated multiplayer gamers. They also believe that it would be great fun to become professional gamers and don’t see any particular downsides to this career option. If you are in a hurry – scroll down to the summarized differences at the bottom of this page. We have not made conclusions on gender issues, although this survey reveals major interesting differences in gaming preferences, but feel free to do so or contact us/me for further information.

Basic facts about the participants

The survey was announced in several gaming forums as was our preceding survey on Online Gaming Habits (See comments on the methodology). We encouraged all gamers who spend some time on playing games to participate and we now make the results freely viewable for everyone in order to contribute in spreading knowledge on the art, science and business of computer games.

Considering the amount of time used on gaming, which in average just surpasses 20 hours on a weekly basis, the participants may overall be characterized as very enthusiastic gamers. Furthermore, the fact that they even consider visiting a gaming forum and use some of that time on filling out a 5 min. questionnaire on gaming, supports that categorization of the respondents. A total of 420 gamers from a variety of countries took part. The group consisted of:

· 420 participants at an average age of 25 years

· 37 were female (8%)

· 141 defined as professional gamers (34%) * including 22 actual full-time professionals (5%)

· 49 % located in either the UK or the USA

(*) Please note that the gamers defined as professional gamers have individually stated that they are professional gamers or that they are clearly hoping to become professional. A total of 144 respondents fall in that category.

Not surprisingly, most participants play computer games from their home (96% to be precise) and the preferred genre is by far Action (75%), followed by Strategy (55%) with Role-Playing, Adventure and Simulation games a bit further down the slope (it was possible to check several favourite genres). This figure is supported by figures from the already mentioned survey on Online Gaming. But at this stage the similarities between the main group and the group of professional gamers stop.

Numerical Differences

The professional group tops at an average of 27 hours of weekly, which is 7 hours more than the main group; 17 hours out of the total are spent online. According to the responses, only 17% of the professional group wouldn’t like to spend all their time on gaming and more than half of the group agree to the statement: “I would love to spend all my time playing computer games - if only I could” (Chart)
I would love to spend all my time playing computer games - if only I could

Professional

Females

Males

Total

I agree

51%

19%

27%

26%

I think I agree

19%

11%

15%

15%

I’m not sure

11%

17%

13%

14%

I think I disagree

7%

25%

16%

18%

I disagree

10%

28%

27%

27%

Total

98%

100%

98%

100%

But when it comes to attitudes towards the time-consuming activity that gaming is, the group is more divided. Whereas the positive sides reveal the excitement, amusement and competitive challenges that gaming entails, the negative sides relate to the fact that gaming can also evolve into antisocial behaviour and laziness towards studies, work and dating/girlfriends (primarily the male gamers responded to this). Still, professional gamers generally state positive aspects of spending time on gaming, although 37% stated equally positive and negative sides.
Good/Bad sides about spending time on computer games? (Coded numerical values)

Professional

Keywords

Positive

28,6%

+ Fun, relaxing, challenging, improve reflexes, exciting to meet others/new friends, keeps you going, self esteem

Mainly positive

16,8%

+ as above

- takes time of from school, homework, work (delays), less social activity with friends/family

Both positive and negative

37,0%

+ as above

- as above, plus physical defects, no time for dating/unhappy girlfriends, too little sleep, unproductiveness

Mainly negative

2,5%

- socially and physically demanding, laziness

Negative

15,1%

- loses contact with the surroundings, antisocial, impairs studies, no time for other hobbies, unpleasant dependence

Total

100%

Other gamers wanted

Another positive side mentioned is the social meetings with friends, both online and offline, that lies in the nature of gaming. To put that into perspective it should be noted that the professional group consists of dedicated multiplayer gamers: 84% prefer to play games in multiplayer environments and they seem to be more focused on the act of multiplayer gaming than who they play with. They also like to play with or against strangers.
How do you prefer playing?

Professional

Females

Males

Total

Multiplayer mode

84%

33%

78%

74%

Alone

16%

67%

22%

26%

Total

100%

100%

100%

100%

Multiplayer gaming is only fun when you play against people you know?

Professional

Females

Males

Total

I agree

13%

11%

17%

16%

I think I agree

13%

14%

12%

12%

I’m not sure

11%

36%

12%

14%

I think I disagree

17%

11%

15%

15%

I disagree

45%

28%

44%

42%

Total

99%

100%

100%

99%

This is not a distinctive characteristic compared to the overall views on multiplayer gaming, but when it comes to attachment to teams, this changes. 59% of the professional gamers are part of a game team, which in general seems to be an option preferred by male gamers. It seems that most team gamers meet online (80%), but real-life meetings are also an important factor in establishing teams. 60% of the professional gamers met in real-life. The very high online meeting rate probably relates to the survey methodology; the respondents have to be online in order to participate. A peculiar fact about the professional group is that 96% of the team gamers mentioned their clan or the game they play (84% mentioned both) which shows a certain validity in their answers, the most popular game-genre being First Person Shooters such as Quake, Unreal and of course ever popular Counter-Strike.

Are you a part of a computer game team?

Professional

Females

Males

Total

No

41%

86%

52%

55 %

Yes

59%

14%

48%

45 %

Total

100%

100%

100%

100%

How did you meet?

Professional

Females

Males

Total

Online

83%

80%

80%

80%

In real-life

60%

40%

56%

55%

According to the answers we received, the online meetings mainly happen on the game servers, where particular players have been asked to join groups by other team players or sometimes by opponents. Real-life establishment of teams usually happens in school/through friends, where smaller groups then possibly hook up with others on the game servers afterwards or vice versa. Well-established teams take certain gamers to try-outs, where skills are tested, before the clan finally may invite the player to join the team. Apparently, there is heavy chat activity on the game servers during the weekly 27 hours of gaming.

Professional dreamers

The huge amount of time spent on gaming is closely knitted to the desire of the professional -groups to lift their gaming skills to a professional level, which encourages a lot of practice and constant improvements of skills. 98% of the professional gamers want to become professionals, which relates to the initial categorisation of the group: they are professional gamers or they are hoping to become so.
A career as a professional gamer would be a dream come true for you?

Professional

Females

Males

Total

I agree

66%

11%

27%

26%

I think I agree

32%

14%

17%

16%

I’m not sure

1%

28%

17%

18%

I think I disagree

1%

14%

10%

11%

I disagree

0%

33%

29%

30%

Total

100%

100%

100%

101%

The main reasons for wanting to enter the professional gaming business are: Great Fun, Traveling/competing and, to some degre, the smell of cash-prizes and sponsorships. Interestingly, the gamers seem to segregate career and amusement as to multiplayer gaming, because although they are part of teams and seek multiplayer environments, it is not crucial to be a part of a team if they ever wanted to enter the professional leagues. This reflects a certain individuality in their approaches to the more serious facets of gaming.
Why would you ever consider starting a career as a full-time player?

Professional*

Females

Males

Total

Great fun

74%

27%

46%

45%

For money

48%

27%

35%

34%

Traveling and competing

61

27%

34%

32%

I wouldn’t

1%**

49%

28%

30%

Only if in team

17%

5%

13%

13%

Other

9%

3%

9%

9%

Yet they seem troubled when thinking on the evolving professionalism within gaming communities. Most of the Professional gamers have used a free text field to express their thoughts on this (84% used this option). The downsides chiefly being: bigger pressure, growing commercialism/bureaucracy/sponsor influence, too much focus on money, lower degree of loyalty between clans, less amusement and finally more cheating and annoying gamers. On the good side they mention: sponsor and prize money, getting paid to do what you love, better communities/social meetings, development of better (multi)player games, frequent checks on cheating, and finally, it will build up foundations for more and better gamers. The professional gamers are also more attracted to competitions than the overall gamers group. There they seek to socialise with other gamers and challenge themselves (and earn money while doing what they love). The fact that something would be at stake sounds attractive to them. 53% of the group have already competed in tournaments and practically everyone wants to compete in the near future.
Have you competed in a computer game tournament within the last two years?

Professional

Females

Males

Total

No

47%

83%

67%

68%

Yes

53%

17%

33%

32%

Total

100%

100%

100%

100%

Would you like to compete in a tournament sometime in the near future?

Professional

Females

Males

Total

Yes

96%*

36%

60%

58%

No

4%

64%

40%

42%

Total

100%

100%

100%

100%

Upcoming spectator sport

The professional gamers surely want to watch their object of interest exposed on television. In addition to this, the overall opinion tends to be positive towards lifting computer gaming to becoming a new spectator sport, although some mention the possible difficulties in reaching wider audiences due to the complicated gaming strategies in certain games and the fact that no games have been especially designed for spectator-purposes yet (although HL-TV is a nice initial try).
Would you watch a program on tv that showed computer battles?

Professional

Females

Males

Total

Yes

73%

25%

49%

47%

Maybe I would

20%

19%

29%

27%

I don’t know

4%

19%

7%

8%

I think not

0%

6%

7%

7%

No

3%

31%

9%

11%

Total

100%

100%

101%

100%

Apparently, the gamers solely want to watch Action games, which probably makes better broadcasting material and also can be linked to the fact that the respondents of this survey prefer action games. The games preferred being Half-Life Counter-strike, the Quake series, Unreal Tournament, and Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
Preferred genre for spectator purposes

Professional

Total

Action

87%

83%

Strategy

18%

24%

Other

4%

3%

No

10%

-

But there has not yet been enough focus on gaming for groups of devoted supporters to form. Just 21% of the overall group state that they support other gamers or teams. When it comes to the professional gamers nearly half of the group already have favorite players who they support in competitions (97% stated who they supported). This could be an important factor during the attempt to fund professional gaming communities that are widely accepted and followed by others than professional gamers like other regular sports as football or tennis.

Do you have one or more favorite players/teams that you support in competitions?

Professional

Females

Males

Total

No

57%

94%

77%

79%

Yes

43%

6%

23%

21%

Total

100%

100%

100%

100%

Summary and further perspectives

The survey contributes with knowledge to a variety of important subjects that relate to the evolvement and endurance of professional gaming. We hope that this survey can build groundwork for further studies on the economics, organization and general societal acceptance of professional gaming or gaming in general as well as the social situation during gaming-sessions itself, which brings vital aspects to studies on global/local evolvement of society. A third possible area of focus could be the coming integration of new media, game-boxes, convergence, and possible ways of extending gaming to larger groups of interest. Considering the desires of those professional gamers, the amount of time spent, the spectator potential, and the economical figures making ground for the gaming industry it seems fair to conclude that this has just begun. For comments, please visit the forum.
This table quickly summarises the greatest differences between the Professional gamers and the main group

SUMMARY

Professional gamers (vs. other enthusiastic gamers)

Age

Are younger: 4 years, average age is 21 years

Time

Play a lot more: 27 hours in total on a weekly basis (7 hours more), including 17 hours of online gaming (6 hours more) and would generally like to spend all their time on gaming (70%)

Game-type

Prefer Action games: 89% are playing action games and play them more often

Single vs. Multiplayer

Are dedicated Multi-players: 84% prefer multiplayer- to sngleplayer-games and don’t mind particularly, whether they play with/against people they know or with/against strangers

Career

Dream about or have careers as professional gamers: 98%, and most of them state that it would be great fun and they’re drawn towards the idea of travelling and competing in tournaments

Attitude

Are not sure, whether they play for fun or in a serious manner

Team

Are team-players: 59% are already in a team and have met their playmates both online (83%) and in real life (60%)

Competition

Compete in tournaments: 53% have competed and 98% would like to in the near future

Support

Are supporters of other teams: 43% supports other players/teams during their fights

Spectators

Are future spectators : 93% would like to watch TV-programs showing computer battles. 87% would prefer action games, but only 18% would tune in on strategic battles as well

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