Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gamer Geographics / Demographics Project

So, I'm hijacking the blog for a special project I'm trying to put together. To explain the plan, allow me to quote my posts to the DnD Contact site:

Posted by me (Chris Jones) on 2/15/2011 at 4:29 pm

I've been wondering something for awhile now, and I thought I'd ask it here.

Where would you find the largest concentration of gamers geographically?

I'm really interested in the United States, but other areas might be interesting too. I'm assuming that large cities will, of course, have more gamers than less populated areas; but we're looking for percentage of gamers compared to the general population. The percentage of gamers overall. For instance I'm sure there are lots of gamers in LA , but the percentage overall may be low compared to some other places. I've heard that the Milwaukee gaming scene is kind of big, and that makes sense, because Wisconsin is home to GenCon and the hometown of Gary Gygax/TSR. I would expect the percentage there to be rather high.

This might also lead to questions like "are there some gaming cities/areas/regions that are more friendly than others"? It would be really cool to have some sort of map or something of gaming density. I suppose the best way to get a feel for it might be to count the number of FLGSs compared to the general population. If you could get your hands on the overall sales of gaming related material it might give us a real clue, but I doubt most places would be very forthcoming with such data. You could also weight the numbers if the area supported conventions and such -- and I'm sure that there are other statistically important factors that would need to be considered.

Problem is I have no idea where to find this information except to start from the ground up. But since DnD Contact is sort of "in the business" of finding out where games and gamers are I thought Someone might have some insight.

Of, and in case something like this makes you nervous, I'm not really talking about a name and address list; I'm talking about a general idea of the number of gamers in a given area. No national databases are being created here : - )

---end post

There were some follow up posts that clarified the purpose a bit:

Posted by Christopher Weir 2/15/2011 4:51 pm

That is actually an interesting conundrum. I cant think of a better way to go about it than you currently have in mind. I wonder if some of the data you're after wouldn't be available in investor information most larger companies offer to investors. Some of them post this information online. You could always give that a try. I'd like to know if you ever get anywhere with this. I would think you may see a correlation in gamer population and smaller cities. They're large enough to have a gaming stores and a certain percentage of the people would undoubtedly be gamers but small enough to not have much of anything to do otherwise. No theme parks, zoos, etc...

---end post

Posted by Rod H on 2/15/2011 at 11:27 pm

My sense is in the NW, especially Portland.

---end post

Posted by The Mad Professor on 2/16/2011 6:46 am

I suspect one hot spot would be Indiana and Ohio, due to the proximity of GenCon and Origins.

---end post

Posted by Roy Anderson on 2/16/2011 8:01 am

The Mad Professor has the correct answer. In another forum a couple years back (RPG.NET) this same discussion raged on for several hundred posts and eventually brought in industry folks working at White Wolf and WOTC, etc. Long story short, in the USA, the areas with the most thriving RPG communities (based on subscription and sales figures) are in middle America.

A typical thriving middle-American RPG community has several statistics: suburban (there are just enough people about that groups can be easily formed), yet affluent enough that residents have disposal income, and not too near a major metro area. A couple of other perks (and there is much of this in middle-America) are heavy concentrations of military and college folks (both groups with disposal incomes and little in the way of responsibilities, aka, distractions to gaming).
Keep on gaming!

---end post

Posted by Chris Jones 2/16/2011 8:12am

Okay, my first step is to try and contact Paizo, WoTC, Steve Jackson Games, White Wolf, Palladium and maybe some other smaller presses. I'll let them know what info I'm trying to gather and see if they have any data that would help.

Next step, a census on FLGSs nationwide. I'll take the data and compare to resident population.

Third step, a census on gaming oriented conventions nationwide.

Fourth, contact convention organizers and ask what demographic data they might be able to provide on registrants.

Fifth, (and this one I'm not looking forward to) try and check public member databases on major gaming oriented sites (like EnWorld) that record member location and consolidate this data. May have to build a software app for this.

Sixth, (not sure I'm going to do this) set up a simple website that gamers can come to and register their location. Once the word gets out what we are trying to do this may help. Tho' this is a clumsy and less accurate way of doing things. Although, I may build a free website after the fact to publish our findings, and add a map app to track gamer location of site visitors.

Each of these areas will have to be considered separately and carefully integrated into a general data bank idea of gaming demographics.

Sound reasonable?

(After Roy's last message I'm planning to search for the discussion he mentioned and these plans may change some)

---end post

Posted by Roy Anderson on 2/16/2011 8:11 am

They definitely consider it a secret. Both Erik Mona (formerly of WOTC, now Paizo) and Ryan Dancey (formerly of WOTC, now Eve Online? I think?) in recent interviews could not answer various questions related to demographics because they're still under Non-Disclosure Agreements with WOTC. I'm sure it doesn't stop them from using that knowledge to benefit their own endeavors though.

---end post

Posted by Chris Jones 2/16/2011 8:16 am

Okay, kewl. I can live with that. It is good that we know Middle America is most dense though. That's a good starting point. We just may have to scratch the hope of getting much from the marketers; but I'd still like to try and create a more accurate map. What about my other ideas for gathering data (mentioned in previous email)? Military bases and colleges - good point too. I'll add them as a weighting factor. Also suburban middle and upper class areas. Can't check the RPG.NET til I get home, work computers block it. But thanks for the info so far. I'll keep everybody posted.

--end post

So that's pretty much the plan. Well, the plan is still developing; the project is to form a database of general gamer demographics. At first it will just be gamer density illustrated by a map. But as the project evolves I may choose to add other demographic information as and if it becomes available.

If you're wondering why I'm doing this? well, one because I groove on stuff like this. Statistics in general really. I also don't know of any place you can find this info on the web currently. I think it will be really helpful for lots of people out there. I hope it becomes a valuable service to the gaming community. My plans are to make it a public domain project and as of now it is very informal and not exactly scientific. So excuse the mess for awhile. But it's sort of a best shot start with what we've got.

I'll keep posting info as blog entries until I can get something up that is more data friendly. Oh, and you may be wondering what exactly qualifies me to do something like this and have it be in any way valid. Well, I've got a BA in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin so community, cultural and sociological stats are kind of my thing. I also have a BA in Mathematics from Utah State University. My stat background is heavier on probability than stats, but I'm actually contemplating getting my masters in statistics. I also have BAs in English Language & Literature as well as Education, but I'm not sure how that helps too much except on the communication end. So I'll do the best I can with what I've got right now. I'll also try and be as forthcoming about my methods and the strength or weakness of any data I'm using. In other words I'll try and be up front. If I can get some stat guys to help out on the starting end I'll do that--but I'll probably end up having to take credit for the work myself, as it takes money to get a Statistician's actual stamp or approval.

So, here we go ... should be fun!