While you may not be able to get grandpa to play video games if he’s never played them before, chances are, if he had grown up with them, he’d still be playing them now.
According to the Entertainment Software Association, those who are 50-years-old or older and consider themselves a video game player, have increased from just nine percent in 1999 to 27 percent in 2015 reports Business Insider. And that isn’t just here in the United States. A similar report in 2012 from the Interactive Software Federation of Europe suggests the 27 percent of adults between the ages of 55 and 64 were gamers and last year, another report in Australia stated that 41 percent of seniors (between the ages of 65 and 74) played video games as well.
While the number of elderly video game players may seem large, Business Insider says that there is more to come. Bob De Schutter, the author of the article says, “As a researcher into games in later life, I would argue that this phenomenon potentially offers great health outcomes. Though playing video games is not typically seen as something that older adults do, there is academic literature that discusses its many benefits: it activates the mind and body, and it facilitates social connectedness.”
De Schutter says that in order for seniors to continue playing video games, the game manufacturers need to change with the times. The games themselves need to be more accessible for aging gamers with what he calls a “learning curve” that are well suited for senior citizens. He also goes on to say that even today’s most simplest games can be difficult and confusing for seniors to learn, if they are not already invested in the games.
“I tried out Hearthstone with the Adult Gamers Club I organize on a regular basis. While the game has a great tutorial that works well for younger players, some of the over-50 club members struggled immensely to complete it. The amount of information, the card-game jargon and the pace at which this information is provided simply proved to be too much for some of them. These people are all healthy older adults with no significant age-related disabilities, but they could nonetheless use some minor accommodations when learning how to play a relatively simple card game such as Hearthstone,” says De Schutter.
It is not uncommon for older adults to have significant age-related disabilities that interfere with learning. However the International Game Developers Association has created a website that offers suggestions for those with difficulties with hearing, ambulatory, vision and cognitive skills. Simple adjustments with contrast, color calibration, sound and even closed captions can make a huge difference. De Scutter says that the more video games that meet these recommendations, the longer people will be able to play them.
Another issue for senior game players is that the video games need to be interesting and/or be meaningful to them in some way. Unlike teens, they prefer their games to be intellectually stimulating with a mature storyline. They are not interested in fast-paced games full of violence and sexual images.
De Schutter also says that today’s senior game players complain that the industry isn’t paying attention to them. He says that the marketing of such games focuses on the health outcomes rather than the enjoyment of the game. His specific example are “brain games” such as Brain Age which has the slogan “Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!” While that can certainly be helpful, it isn’t very enticing for someone who actually want to play a game because it’s fun.
“Considering all this, there is a lot of untouched potential for video games in later life,” says De Schutter. “We should therefore make sure that tomorrow’s games are ready to meet the needs of its aging players in both their design and marketing.”
[Photo by Jemal Countess / Getty Images]