During the debate over legislating an R18+ rating for games, I doubt any statistic was ever quoted more frequently than the average age of Australian gamers, as found by Bond University. There were lots of strong arguments for an adults-only rating, but nothing said "games are not just for kids" than that oft-cited statistic: the average Aussie gamer is 30 years old.

Bond University has conducted its Digital Australia survey every two years since 2005, and it has just released its findings from July 2011, based on a National random sample of 1,252 households, collected by Nielsen.

The results are unsurprising for those who have been following the Digital Australia results since they began, with Australian gamers continuing to grow older, spend more time online, and come ever closer to a 50/50 gender split.

According to the survey, the average age for an Australian gamer is now 32, compared to 36 for the whole population, and 75% are 18 or older. Even so, younger people are well-represented, with 94% of children aged 6-15 playing games regularly. 95% of Australian homes have at least one device used for playing games.

Women now make up 47% of gamers, which goes some way toward explaining why the ways in which women are depicted in games has become such a talked about issue. This is up from about 38% in 2005, a sharp increase.

57% of gamers surveyed played every day or every other day, and their average gaming session  was an hour or so. In contrast, only 3% reported playing for five or more hours in a single sitting.

The internet is playing an ever bigger role in gaming. While only 30% listed online or local multi-player as their typical gaming experience, 70% said they enjoy multi-player games. 70% of gaming households had more than one gamer in residence, and 20% reported side-by-side on the couch gaming as being their typical experience.

Only 43% of Australian gamers now prefer to buy their games the old-fashioned way: brand new, in a box, from a bricks-and-mortar retailer. 22% now prefer to download their games, and 14% like to buy physical copies from an online store. Around 21% prefer to buy their games second-hand.

Games and parenting are intertwined more than ever. 83% of parents reported playing video games, and of those 88% play them with their children. In a good sign for healthy game classification, 79% of parents said they are always or usually present when their children buy games. Game classification plays a strong role in purchasing decisions, as well, with around two thirds of parents reporting that a game's rating had a moderate or strong influence on their choice when buying a game for their children.

One area where education is needed, however, is in using parental controls on consoles. Around 40% of game-playing parents report having little or no familiarity with content-locking features, and among non-gamer parents this figure leapt to around 65%. Clearly more information is needed on the use of these tools.

If you would like to read the complete report, it can be downloaded in PDF format from the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association website.

 - James "DexX" Dominguez

twitter DexX is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez