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Games for the 50+: Strengthening Friendships
By Bob Stephen, April 15, 2013 01:13 PM
In my last blog post, I described a very large study of 32,000 users of the free online multiplayer game, Wizard101.
The study found that not only were the Wizard101 subscribers over 50 playing more every week compared to younger users, but that they also reported social benefits from playing the game, including the ability to make new friends and stay connected to old friends.
The virtual world aspect of Wizard101 and similar games provide participants with an opportunity to interact and get to know others - all from the comfort of home. There are certainly similarities to social media where friends can be made based on shared interest - but the game environment adds a twist in that you can do things together while making friends or staying connected.
The study was conducted by two associate professors in the Department of Communication at Trinity University in San Antonio, Aaron Delwiche and Jennifer Jacobs Henderson, who is also the department chair.
One of their findings involved the players' ability to connect beyond what's physically possible. That could mean making friends around the country or world through gaming, or it could mean that the gaming allowed them to interact with people in spite of health issues that might prevent them from leaving the house at all.
For one of my colleagues down the hall at AARP, this is not a new phenomenon, as she has a regular game night with her former college roommate every week. Despite living hundreds of miles apart, they meet virtually in another multiplayer online game. Even though she's a Gen Xer, Delwiche and Henderson report the experience is the same for boomers.
Study participants volunteered these comments:
- "I have made real friends that I speak with on the phone daily, from all over the country. I can't imagine not playing, though I am not on as much as I used to be." (This participant was a 53-year-old woman who plays almost 4 hours a week.)
- "We are seniors and this is a great way to get out of the house without having to leave our home." (This participant was a 59-year-old woman who plays 20 hours per week.)
There seem to be a lot of different benefits to online gaming, which allows participants to overcome long distances with existing friends, like my coworker, make new friends and even avoid isolation through this social connection.
In my next blog post, I'll talk about the family connection results of the study. Until then, it would be great to hear from anyone who has personally experienced the ability to connect and meet new friends through gaming of any type.
View the entire Games for the 50+ series:
- Part 5: Games for the 50+: A New Outlet for Mentoring
- Part 4: Games for the 50+: Games Provide Family Caregivers With Time to Recharge
- Part 3: Games for the 50+: Grandparents & Grandchildren Find Adventures, Memories
- Part 2: Games for the 50+: Strengthening Friendships
- Part 1: Games for the 50+: Benefits Include Socialization, Activity
Bob Stephen is AARP's Vice President for Home and Family. In this role he works across the organization on issues that include caregiving, intergenerational families, livable communities, and technology. He connects with his family and friends through online gaming.
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