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AARP Calls on Video Game Developers to Create Challenges for Adults 50 and Older
By Linda Dono, April 5, 2023 11:14 AM
En español | AARP is inviting game developers and industry leaders to a half-day in-person and virtual summit April 18 at AARP headquarters in Washington, D.C., to help them in the quest to focus on older adults.
Nearly half of people age 50 and older played video games at least once a month in 2022, according to a new AARP Research report that will be released at the AARP Games Summit. Almost half of those who play say they do it every day.
This translates to more than 52 million older adults, AARP’s report says. And that’s about a quarter of all video game players nationwide when compared with overall figures from the Entertainment Software Association, the Washington-based trade association for the video game industry.
“We know that meaningful play is a healthy part of aging,” says Maura White, AARP’s senior director of gaming and community. “Playing video games can relieve stress, challenge you mentally, connect you with others and be just plain fun — all of which are important to longevity. Games can be a gateway to engaging with more technology. We want to encourage that on all levels.”
Video games were born when many boomers were teens and young adults. Unlike 8-track tapes and mimeograph machines from the 1970s, electronic games have stood the test of time, evolving from Table Tennis, Pac-Man and Pong to individual and multiplayer video experiences with more sophisticated graphics and story lines than ever before.
But nearly 7 in 10 gamers age 50 and older that AARP surveyed say video games today aren’t designed with them in mind. AARP wants to change that, much in the same way AARP’s AgeTech Collaborative is working with start-ups and venture capitalists to change the way companies approach aging and solve for its problems.
AARP’s website offers games and puzzles, which are among its most popular features. Four of the games that AARP created — Right Again! Trivia; Right Again! Trivia Sports Edition; SongTheme; and the Throwback Thursday Crossword — can be found only on aarp.org.
Many older adults prefer this category of play, called casual games, that have simple rules, don’t require a big investment of time and are designed for a wide variety of skill levels, White says. Think Wordle and its more than a dozen spinoffs.
Additional favorites include crossword puzzles, tile-matching games and trivia contests, says Brittne Kakulla, senior researcher and author of the upcoming AARP report. But older adults have a wide variety of tastes in video games. All older players enjoy games that are easy to start, offer some challenges and allow room for improvement.
Games for more than one player can help parents bond with teens, says Sami Hassanyeh, AARP’s senior vice president for digital strategy and membership and parent of a teenage son. The competition is exhilarating, but the experience is about more than the game.
“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve just started talking, talking about more than ‘I’m going to win,’ when we’re looking at the screen and aren’t thinking about everything else that’s happened that day,” he says.
When older adults play video games with others, children and grandchildren are who they play with most often, Kakulla says.
At the AARP Games Summit:
• Keynote speaker Trip Hawkins, 69, founder of video game pioneer Electronic Arts (EA), will offer insights on age-friendly design.
• Kakulla of AARP Research, a senior researcher who leads studies on older adults and technology, will present her new findings on video gaming.
• Stanley Pierre-Louis, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, will also speak.
“People love playing great games. They love playing on great platforms and great devices,” Pierre-Louis told the National Journal in 2020. “And they really love being able to connect with others.”
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