The amount of time Americans spend playing video games and board games has risen by 50 percent since 2003, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The typical American now spends more time playing games than volunteering, going to social events or going to church.
The numbers come from the American Time Use Survey, a nationally representative annual study that asks respondents to recount, in minute-by-minute detail, how they spent the previous day. On the average day in 2016, the average American age fifteen and older spent about 15 minutes playing games, up from 10 minutes in 2003, according to the survey.
If you exclude people who played no games at all, the typical gamer spent over two hours per day playing games in 2016.
That number is little changed since 2003, which means that the increase in average gaming time overall is due primarily to a surge in the number of gamers. In 2003, less than 8 percent of the population played games on a typical day. By 2016, that number had shot up to over 11 percent.
The American Time Use Survey doesn't distinguish between board games, such as Scrabble, and video games, such as Zelda or Overwatch. So it's impossible to know with certainty how much of the increase is driven by playing video games alone.
Video games were a $23.5 billion industry in 2015, according to the Entertainment Software Association, an industry trade group. Board and card games are a much smaller industry, ringing up about $1.2 billion in sales that year, according to industry analyst group ICv2. Those numbers suggest that video games account for the majority of time filed under “playing games” in the Time Use Survey.
There's been a great deal of focus on the rise of gaming time among young, unemployed men, thanks to a recent working paper by researchers at Princeton, the University of Chicago and the University of Rochester. But the Time Use Survey data show that the increase in gaming hasn't been limited to just young men. Indeed, there's been a larger increase in gaming time among women (58 percent) than there has among men (50 percent) since 2003.
Today, similar percentages of men (12.3) and women (10.3) play games on a typical day.
Since there are only 24 hours in a day, any increase in gaming time has to be offset by a decrease in time spent on other things. While the survey numbers can't pinpoint this with certainty, they do show that since 2003 there have been substantial drops in a number of other leisure activities that game playing might take the place of, including socializing (seven-minute daily decrease since 2003), reading (four-minute decrease), and arts and entertainment, not including TV (two-minute decrease).
Americans' total leisure time is unchanged since 2003.
The Time Use Survey also has data on where people play games the most. Colorado leads the nation on the percentage of residents (13.4) who play games on a typical day, followed by Minnesota (13.2), Kansas (11.6), New Hampshire (11.6) and Rhode Island (11.2).
On the flip side, in Hawaii only 3.1 percent of residents play games on a typical day, making it the least gaming-addicted state in the nation (this makes some sense — when you live in an island paradise, who needs to sit in front of a screen?). Hawaii is followed by New Mexico (4.9), Georgia (5.7), Mississippi (6.0) and South Carolina (6.1).