At a conference last year, several of us at AARP had the chance to hear about the ways in which the 50-plus and those not quite 50 find benefits in playing online multiplayer games. There are several parts of that last statement that tend to elicit pushback from others - first, many believe online multiplayer video games are played by teens or young millennial men. Second, the idea of a multiplayer video game may elicit images of violent games which in the mind of some do not have value. It turns out that data on gaming plus a soon-to-be released study show both of these assumptions are wrong.
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, recently completed a study where they obtained information from over 32,000 users of the free online multiplayer game Wizard101. The users ranged in age from 5 to 95 years old. As far as studies go, that makes it one of the largest gaming studies ever. They chose Wizard101 because of its large subscriber base and its recognition in the industry for being nonviolent with an emphasis on problem-solving and collaboration. The game is intended for tweens, but its makers have made sure that controls are appropriate for everyone and that content is relevant to people of all ages. Unlike word games, this and similar games provide an online environment where players can interact with each other.
Online multiplayer games (referred to as MMORPGs - Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) are increasingly popular with people of all ages. While Wizard101 and the similar Pirate101 have appeal across generation, there are also games available for younger and older audiences. ToonTown Online and Star Wars: Clone War Adventures are appropriate for playing with younger family and friends and World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Lord of the Rings Online are three popular games more appropriate for those in their teens or older.
From working at AARP, we know that the 50-plus (and Gen Xers) do play v ideo game s and tend to play longer than younger players. (Hey, many of us were the original gamers with Pong.) Major findings from the study include:
- Unlike younger gamers, who are usually male, the majority of 50-plus players are women.
- 50-plus players focused less on competition and more on cooperation.
- Players over 50 cited benefits of making and staying connected to friends.
- Online games provide a way for family to stay connected despite geographic barriers.
- Caregivers found gaming to be a way to address stress, avoid isolation and stay connected to family and friends.
- Many 50-plus gamers cited the ability to mentor and help younger players as a positive.
While past studies have talked to who's playing and for how long, the last four bullets above represent new insights.
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 on issues such as caregiving, intergenerational families, livable communities and technology across the organization. He connects with family and friends through online gaming.
Image Courtesy of: Kingsisle
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