In a post in early April, Brandon from That Green Dude asked the WordPress community whether they considered the seventh generation of consoles to be retro now. This was a question I ended up digging into further and I’d like to say thank you to everyone who took the time to complete my short survey on the subject. The data is now in, so let’s take a look at the trends your answers revealed.
Some initial investigation into Brandon’s question revealed a possible link between a person’s age and the way they viewed the console generations. Younger gamers seemed more likely to see recent generations as ageing sooner. I wondered if this could be related to the fact that we start to perceive time differently as we get older: it feels as though a year passes in no time at all when you’re an adult but even an hour takes forever when you’re ten.
Ages of respondents
Let’s first take a look at the ages of everyone who completed the survey:
The 40 people who responded were aged from ten- to 43-years old, giving us a range of 33 years. Although our mean (30.45), median (31.50) and mode (34) are all relatively close to one another, our data is negatively skewed and most responses were received from gamers aged between 24 and 34 years. This is something that could have an impact on our findings and should be taken into account when summarising.
Next, let’s consider the mean age of our respondents at the release of each console generation:
Therefore, the majority of people who completed our survey were born at around the same time of the fourth generation’s release in 1987 and it was the fifth generation consoles they could possibly have the fondest memories of growing up with. It will be interesting to see what impact this has on how the earlier and later generations are both perceived; could this be the tipping point?
Perception of console generations
The only thing that all of the respondents agreed on was that the first generation consoles are considered classic, while the eighth are current. There was a range of answers in between and some responses were quite surprising:
Overall, the first to third generations are considered to be classics; the fourth to sixth are retro; and the seventh and eighth are current. Maybe we hit on something when talking about tipping points above. The switch from retro to current happens at the seventh generation, when respondents were on average 17.45 years of age – perhaps also the time when a first job or university placement is taken on, adult responsibilities start to arrive and there’s less time available for gaming.
Let’s dig further and take a look at the relationship between the age of consoles, the average ages of our respondents at their release and overall perceptions:
The mean age of our respondents at the release of the generation intersects with console age just before the arrival of the seventh, when both the gamer and the console are approximately 15 years old. This is also around the same time that the switch from retro to classic happens as described in the section above; it could simply be coincidental, but it’s an interesting finding nonetheless.
Age versus perception
And now we get to the heart of the matter: does our age affect how we perceive the console generations? To answer this question, I converted the ratings into numbers so classic was 0, retro was 1 and current was 2, then used the data to create a scatter chart for each individual console generation to see the trend (click on the image below to see a close-up):
I then mapped these trends to a separate chart to see if there was any relationship between them:
The higher the point on the trendline, the more recent the respondent perceives the console generation to be. There certainly appears to be some correlation between age and perception, with our older respondents viewing generations as more current than those at the other end of the age-range. But what about when we look at perceptions overall and not just for individual generations?
This chart was created by calculating the mean of the perceptions provided by each respondent after converting them using the rating scale mentioned above. The overall trend depicted here does seem to show an increase towards the older end of the age-range.
I think the only thing we can safely surmise from this experiment is that I’m no scientist and my data analysis skills could do with some improvement! Still, it has been an interesting exercise to complete and several findings have been revealed.
The perception of console generations could possibly coincide with childhood and on onset of adult responsibilities. Consoles released prior to being born are generally viewed as classic; those released around the time of birth and through younger years are considered retro, perhaps having something to do with nostalgia’s effect on our memories; and those released during our adult years, when we have less time to devote to gaming, are thought to be current.
There also seems to be a link between our age and how quickly we feel consoles have become retro or classic. The younger a gamer is, the more likely they are to have viewed a console as having aged; maybe this is due to the way we perceive time differently as we get older. It should be noted however that the majority of our survey responses were from people aged between 24 and 34, and very few responses were received from ages outside of this range; such a limited age-range could have had an impact on this experiment.
Thank you to everyone who took part and to Brandon for giving me an excuse to mess around with data and charts for a day! The findings are in no way conclusive, but it has been a lot of fun seeing what we could find out.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.