Friday, 7 August 2015


Sometime back the BBC News brought us the story of an 86 year old lady who loved playing on her console. She admitted that she had no idea what she was doing but it was fun. It was just one of those 'human interest' stories - a bit of fun.

Just a couple of weeks ago game developers, publishers and analysts met up at the Develop Conference in Brighton. Among the topics discussed was the recognition that gameplay was not restricted to the young but to a new breed of gamer who were either carrying on gaming into retirement or taking it up for the first time in their sixties. A fact that I have known for sometime as I have encountered these players on occasion.

Fifteen years ago aged 55 I had a stroke and during rehab I was asked if I or my children had a games console. Well, there was a Playstation One and my psychologist thought that I should use it as it would aid my hand and eye co-ordination. So 'Tomb Raider' and 'WWF Attitude' were the first to feel movement via my fumbling fingers - forget racing games for there was far to much for me to handle.

Although these kinds of aids were not mentioned during the conference something else was brought into the mix. Essentially we are social animals and we like to interact with friends and families - so that gaming could be a useful tool to help those who live in isolation.

I live miles away from my children and grandchildren but nearly everyday there are three generations battling it out on the Advance Warfare maps. Yet, I can still play solo with other players without the need for social interaction. On the odd occasion I do get game invites but I tend not to respond for the following reasons a) it is usually from someone I don't know or haven't played against and b) in the past it has just been to stoke someone's ego - though on a couple of times (when I did respond) the one on one challenge went in my favour.

Still the social interaction is still important.

As cyberpsychologist Berni Good explained to the conference - "As psychologists we are beginning to understand 'the theory of being happy' can be realised with the engagement and immersion into video gameplay. Research on character identification suggest that audiences regularly imagine being the character and research around parasocial experiences suggest that people react to character as if they were real physical beings."

While I can go along with some of what she says - character identification has been ongoing for many years - there are those who think that characters in soaps like 'Coronation Street' and 'Eastenders' are real. The same can be said about characters in books - we would like to be James Bond - a bit of escapism but our brains are rooted in reality.

The suggestion is that developers may consider looking at games that reflect the lifestyles of the aging population. This immediately made me think of 'Gran Theft Auto'; 'Mobility Scooter Racing' and 'Zombie Care Home' and 'The Walking Sticks Dead'. I prefer the games that are available now nor can I imagine myself playing age related games As Berni Good stated: Aging gamers may find that they have an important role to play in shared co-op experiences with younger relatives. A statement that is very true.

The relevance of the opinions of the silver gamers is, I believe, of importance but it is not just game developers who need to take note but the people behind the Xbox and Sony Playstation. There is no point in sending out surveys to people who, as soon as they tick the over 65 age box are told that they are not what the survey were looking for - that is just plain ignorant and ageist.

The silver gamers are out there and I reckon that we can hold our own.

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