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May 16, 2022
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User Research: Look into those Eastern middle-aged players who still play games

by Yongcheng Liu on 11/18/21 11:28:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
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Middle-aged gamers are important in game industry (no offenses, but just player research for a specific group). But what are their characteristics? What are their needs for gaming? And how do they choose games?

Compared with the U.S. market, China’s domestic gamers are younger overall, and young players are winning more and more attention in this country. According to CNNIC data, the scale of China's teenage game users, which is only 93 million in 2015, has reached 107 million in 2019, an increase of 15% in 4 years. By 2020, when we look at the age distribution of China's mobile game users, people under 30 years old have accounted for the majority, the post-90s and post-95s become the main force of the game players today.


In contrast, older gamers seem to be invisible in the market, becoming an easily overlooked player group.


However, if a successful game wants to keep the initial group of loyal players, it will inevitably experience gradual aging of players. This group of players, after their life experiences have changed over time, are now having a different playing style than they were back then, and it becomes necessary to look at them from a new perspective.

So, for middle-aged gamers, what are their characteristics? What are their needs for gaming? And how do they choose games?

Are middle-aged gamers still playing the game?

The first question is that, are middle-aged or even much more aged gamers still playing games? The answer is positive, based on our recent research. And they are playing in the games you might pay little attention to.

Nowadays, with the rise of Japanese Animation Style Games, people tend to feel that there are no older players in games (because these games are full of young and even many teenage gamers), or even that older players are no longer suitable to play games (busy dealing with pressures from work, families, etc). But if you have looked at the player persona of games like Mir 2 and MU Online, these doubts would not even rise.

According to the Mir 2 Research Report released by DataEye, the distribution of the age group of users for which the promotions materials of Mir 2 are placed, users over 30 years old account for 62.79%, and the post-80s occupy a dominant position.



Baidu index also shows that the Mir 2 search index is between 30-40 million, reflecting that Mir 2 game (webpage version) market space is still huge, and the age distribution of players who are paying attention to Mir 2 concentrated in 30 ~ 39 years old.


As you can see, it's not that players stop playing games when they get older, but that some players stay in the original popular games and grow up with them together.

What do games for middle-aged players look like?

Previous player research on an MMO game shows that middle-aged players mostly have a mixed gaming experience of MOBA and casual games. League of Legends, Arena of Valor, Landlord Poker, and Happy Match-three all had abundant players choosing them in a survey. In addition, classic games such as West Fantasy (a big MMORPG title in China) also have a lot of players who continue to play since 2003. On the other hand, games like Mir 2 also have a certain audience, and this group of players is more placed in second-tier cities in China overall (it’s necessary to break players into residents of different areas, as Online mobile and pc games are the main part of China’s game market). Besides, a small number of middle-aged players also choose single-player RPGs.

These games that chosen by many middle-aged gamers are both in line with our common perceptions and some of them are not quite as expected.



MOBA games are most liked by middle-aged players because they are relatively fast-paced and with little connection between rounds. And the passionate 5v5 gameplay also provides the opportunity to return to the youthful years of several friends playing together, adding more attraction; however, the game itself has certain requirements for control in game, so there are some middle-aged players who left.

Web games are even more extreme in promoting passionate combat. Players are very sensitive to the words Hot Blood, Cool, Damage and Brotherhood after entering the game. Multiplayer blood battle is also one of the biggest attractions that players perceive. However, the quality of the game itself is not good, and players with a certain appreciation for game graphics will not buy-in for a long time.

Casual games are relatively unique and while a large number of middle-aged players play them, the players' enjoyment of the games themselves is average and more of a way for players to kill time. Players tend to play other games in the same period of time while playing casual games.

The old MMORPG attracts middle-aged players because it is very comprehensive, having stronger social interaction compared to casual games, and has less difficult controls compared to MOBA. In addition, providing a way of potentially making money and auto-play is a big plus to keep this category fun.

Middle-aged gamers: what are their needs for gaming?

Now, another question arises: why do middle-aged gamers choose games like these, and what are the gaming needs behind those choices?

It seems we can see some clues from the posts on some game forum website.

"Stressful game", "just hard to spend a long time gaming", "family pressure", these social pressures faced by middle-aged people influence their gaming choices. To some extent, middle-aged players' choice of games is even more influenced by their life status than their own preference for game categories.

The stressful life and families mean that middle-aged gamers probably don't have full game time, but rather a several pieces of time. They prefer to have flexible game time, and single-player might be the best. That gave birth of the need of auto-play. Therefore, heavy games with high requirements for full-time sitting in front of a PC and games with high concentration requirements have natural experience obstacles for middle-aged players. MOBA games, casual games, and single-player RPGs have the feature in common of being able to play and stop at any time, which all fit the gaming needs of middle-aged players.

The difficulty of playing for a long time represents a decline in middle-aged players, both in terms of time and ability of control. Simplicity then becomes what players want from a game. However, simplicity here does not mean simple game mechanics, but from a cognitive point of view. They will prefer games that are already known to some extent, easy to understand, and do not require a complex learning process.

Our research found that the old MMORPGs like West Fantasy and The Ghost have a loyal group of middle-aged players who have been playing only one game for years and years and are not willing to switch to new MMORPGs with better quality in the market. Those new MMORPG has not become a priority option for middle-aged players because, on the one hand, MMO gameplay is gradually moving towards multi-element mix, which increases the fun but also increases the requirements of putting more time into it and the difficulty of getting started; on the other hand, more importantly, middle-aged players are emotionally inclined to old game nostalgia, and on a psychological level neither care about new games nor are they willing to learn new games. Their gaming choices and aesthetics are stuck in the games they were exposed to in their early 20s.

What psychological needs are reflected behind the gaming needs of middle-aged gamers?

Taking it a step further, what are the psychological needs of middle-aged gamers for gaming, especially in China’s online game market? Our research has found:

  1. “Life is already tiring, I just want to be relaxed and happy in games”

These players are the ones who have difficulties playing games that are full of events and have to be online regularly, and they often complain that playing games are more tiring than going to work. For this group of players, the game serves as stress relief and is more like a secret base for them to rest after taking off all their fatigue.

"Pull a random passerby and ask a question, people are welcoming and helpful to each other, and the experience is just great. Some games (Heaven, Marvel) love it, people in Sinister are more available and like to gossip. "

-- The Ghost player, working for many years, has found a new joy in The Ghost


  1. “Life has come to a standstill and I want to rediscover progress and passion in games”

After having children and a more stable family life, middle-aged people often start to feel the loss of passion in life and want to start to rediscover the experience of life that makes people feel more passionate. The game precisely becomes the choice to meet their needs - there are the eager guild brothers, PVP events with blood fights, dungeons that need to work together as a group. The most important thing in games for them is often passion.

"Sinister's graphics scenario is a little better than others (legendary) do, and then now out of a few nostalgic games, but also more marketable, such as the glory of the king, peace elite, let people feel hot blood. I think playing games, wolf players account for 80%, not group CP. our type of players, just want to be a little hot-blooded, a little passionate."

--The Ghost player, in his late 30s, just love simple and straightforward battling gameplay, and his requirement for games is hot blood


  1. “I know I'm getting old and I want to use the game to get back to my youth memories”

People are always reluctant to mention their age after reaching middle age, preferring instead to look back on their youth memories. The recent hit Mole's Garden is also recalling the memories of this group of people. Classic memory is a common word in the mouth of these players, and their emotional needs for the game sometimes outweigh the quality requirements. Especially, they care about restoring the original experience and feelings.

"I’m 40, and I got not so much energy in the competitive MOBA games. Instead, I’m more focused on being able to experience more game stories in my leisure time, not to be bored. And this MMO offers me those good memories of playing back in the old days.”

---- a Chinese player, who has a family to raise in his 40-year-old, playing an old MMORPG, saying it is more of an old memory


  1. “It doesn't matter what the gameplay is, it's more about the people who play it”

There is also a bunch of gamers who use games to expand their social experience. Middle-aged players, who are already the pillar of their families and have a great deal of stress. Usually, it’s hard for them to talk about their negative emotions and bad moods to those around them, instead, some of them may turn to games. They make friends through games, and talk about their own lives and chat freely with each other.

"I am not good at other games. For example, got 3D dizziness in battle royale games. Now in The Ghost, we can get in each other’s team to get a free ride on the tasks to clear. And sometimes working is stressful, which is hard to share with families and friends, because all of them may have different difficulties and it’s not good sometimes to give more negative emotions to other people whom you care about. I talk to gaming friends in this game, just purely want to find someone to chat with. When we are online, we are like good friends who live our own lives when offline.

-- a Chinese MMORPG player, who found a bunch of good friends in-game

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