Friday, August 15, 2008

some numbers

As I work away on this article (now tentatively titled "Schizophonic Performance: Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Rock Authenticity") I've been reviewing some statistics generated by my qualitative survey on the GH/RB gameplay experience. Since this article probably won't be published in a journal for a year (if I'm lucky), I thought I'd share some of the stats here.

As of this writing I have received 414 responses. Survey respondents were self-selecting; most heard about the survey through recruitment messages posted on several high-traffic online messageboards devoted specifically to these games. There is no reason to assume that these players represent an ideal demographic sample of the many millions of people who have purchased or played the games. (The Guitar Hero franchise has sold more than twenty-one million game units since 2005; Rock Band has sold more than three million games and ten million individual song downloads since its November 2007 release.) However, the content and range of the qualitative responses in the surveys does seem to match the range of perspectives I have encountered through other research channels (reading messageboards and media accounts, interviewing players, etc.). Now, the numbers:

* 88% male, 11% female, 1% intergender/trans/other
* 60% aged 21 or younger, 23% aged 22-30, 17% over 30
* 100% have played some version of Guitar Hero; 37% have also played Rock Band
* 93% own some version of Guitar Hero; 25% own both Guitar Hero and Rock Band
* 45% typically play for 1-2 hours at a time
* 16% usually play at the “easy” or “medium” difficulty levels; 19% at “hard”; 64% at “expert”
* 76% have used “practice mode” (which breaks songs down into short sections that can be drilled at slower tempos)
* 57% often play with other people watching; 69% often play in a multiplayer mode
* only 41% reported having much prior familiarity with &ge 50% of the songs included in the games
* 79% stated that the games increased their appreciation for new songs/genres; 76% had added new music to their listening collections because of the games
* 73% had experience playing an instrument; 49% (of all respondents) had experience playing guitar; 32% had played in a band; 14% regularly performed music in public
* 34% reported feeling creative during gameplay

While I must re-emphasize the caveat that these statistics are not necessarily representative of all players, it does seem important that nearly three-quarters of respondents had played an instrument—particularly given that respondents were recruited primarily from gamer discussion boards (as opposed to some more specifically music-oriented population). This fact stands in intriguing tension with the mission statement often repeated in media interviews with Harmonix designers: “to give that awesome feeling [of performing music] to people who aren't musicians, who would never get to have it” (in this instance articulated by audio director Eric Brosius).


Hall Monitor said...

Check out for a story about a teen who dropped out of school to focus on Guitar Hero.

Kiri said...

Thanks -- one of my undergrads emailed me the same story a few minutes ago!

Anonymous said...

Save Guitar Hero!

Gibson Guitar Corporation is attempting to halt the sales of Guitar Hero! The company claims the video game violates one of its patents and wants Activision (the maker of Guitar Hero) to stop sales until Activision gets a license under the patent- likely a costly and slow process.

If Gibson wins, Guitar Hero could cease to exist. Go to Save Guitar Hero! to find out more and to show your support.

Guitar Hero 4 said...

THAT is pure gold dust research. I'm very impressed. Heh 34% reported feeling creative during gameplay?!? I would not of expected it to be that high. hmmm...

Kyra D. Gaunt, Ph.D. said...

Just curious Kiri. Did you have to go through an IRB for this project?

Kiri said...

Hi Kyra -- Yes, I had to go through the Brown IRB, but once they approved all my fine print (the interview permission form, survey format, etc.) they declared the project exempt from further IRB oversight. If I make changes to the research protocols I'll have to go back and get re-approved. The only remaining roadblock is the fact that I'm not allowed to work with people under 18 at all (or else there would be a much more complicated IRB procedure). But I can cope with that, at least for now.