We know that Gen Z are gamers, no matter how young they are—and well, maybe Gen Alpha is already, too. Millennial parents tell YPulse their kids are already frequent video game players—and our Gaming report data even shows which games they’re playing most. And even though more than a third of their children are younger than four-years-old, they’re undoubtably tapping away, even if it’s just virtual puzzles instead of (okay, maybe in addition to) real ones.
Of course, these parents are long-term gamers themselves: Millennials grew up when OG consoles were becoming mainstream, and today 93% of Millennial parents tell YPulse they play video games in some capacity. And while older parents had concerns about letting their children play video games, with fears that they provoked violent behaviors stoked by the media, Millennials are actually being given reassurance it’s a good hobby. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that among 2K children surveyed, there’s improved brain activity among video game players. New research from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health also shows that young adults who are gaming consistently are displaying signs of improved executive functioning.
But, even if they don’t know the apparent benefits of gaming, most Millennial parents are letting their kids play—and even teaching them. YPulse data even shows that Gen Z are playing video games nearly as much as they watch TV—and Gen Alpha is likely to have gaming in their media menu at even younger ages These three stats show just how these parents are shaping Gen Alpha’s future as gamers:
Between console gaming, PC gaming, and mobile gaming, Millennial parents tell YPulse their children play mobile games most often, with 58% saying they play them weekly or more. Many of their favorite video games—including metaverse games Roblox and Minecraft—have mobile apps that allow even the youngest players to tap in from their parent’s phone. (But 41% of parents tell YPulse they have given their children their own tech devices, and these games are also big on tablets.)
But while mobile is likely the intro that most Gen Alpha will have to gaming, 55% of Millennial parents report that their kids are playing console games weekly or more often, making them almost as popular, and indicating that many Gen Alphas will grow up with a controller in hand. This pattern mirrors their parents’ gaming choices: 62% of Millennial parents say they themselves play mobile games weekly or more often, followed by console gaming (52%), and PC gaming (40%). And it makes sense that their children’s choices would follow the same patterns as their own gaming because…
Children of Millennial parents are not just playing games on their own—though they surely are—but the majority (64%) are playing them alongside their parents. Playing games together is a form of bonding for this gen of parents, because gaming provides an easy common hobby, especially for the 63% of Millennial parents who consider themselves “gamers.” Just this week, a Millennial mom went viral for showing how bonding with her daughter in Roblox could even be useful as a parent: When her daughter wouldn’t pick up the phone, she knew to find her in the virtual world—because they spend time playing together to get closer and she is familiar with the game now, too. Other parents value playing video games together to teach their children teamwork and how to accept losing.
Some games, or brand activations in games, have even taken to reaching parents alongside children in their video game marketing. My Little Pony’s Roblox activation advertised to Millennial parents through a TripAdvisor listing for “Maretime Bay” as a family vacation destination, showcasing the details of how the game would be made more child-safe than potential others by excluding chat functions and the ability to spend real world currency. But branded presence in video games appears to be a somewhat controversial topic for these parents…
With so many parents letting their children play video games, they are nearly united in the idea that these games should not be advertising within them. Non-parents are slightly less inclined to agree, though a majority still say advertising shouldn’t be present in kid’s games.
But this strongly contradicts the current state of marketing in gaming, where more brands are filing into virtual worlds to reach Gen Z (and even Gen Alpha) as young consumers every day. YPulse data shows that suggestions from their children are heavily influential on what Millennial parents buy for them. And knowing this, brands want to make sure their brand is seen in children’s video game worlds—ensuring a purchase from parents, or even the gamers themselves, as YPulse data shows 29% of parents whose kids play virtual world games say their children have spent their own money in one.
But perhaps it’s the kind of advertising that makes parents okay with their children spending time in virtual worlds full of virtual brand experiences. Brands are hardly playing mid-roll ads in the metaverse—instead, they’re taking up real estate to offer their own games and hangout spots, which act as a more subtle form of brand recognition and purchase encouragement. It’s more than possible that brands that offer something of value (whether entertainment or even better, education) to Gen Alpha gamers will be welcomed by their Millennial parents.