And what of the older gamer?

30 11 2006

By Aleks Krotoski

Last week, a so-called “older” gamer posted to /. about his anticipated decline in gaming skills as his years continue to advance, and requested that the community suggest games that he should play if he were to never play again. While the resulting commentary belied the average (mental?) age of the /. contributor and the original post was a tad morbid, I had considered forwarding the intention on to this blog to see what our well-rounded and well-meaning readers might suggest to this 44-year-old guy who appears to think he’s on the brink of incapacity.

However, I was listening to the ever-entertaining Digital Planet podcast from the BBC and this week’s instalment raised the point that technology is driven by demand, which seemed a much more interesting frame for his request. Here in the West it seems our needs include escapism, high action and lots of rather unsettling bright flashes and loud noises on the games side, and on the general technology side, machinery which offers all of our needs in one handy packet (e.g., newfangled mobile phones) and software which brings us together (e.g., social networking websites and Web 2.0 apps).

But how will all of this change as we get older?

The example which the podcast’s Japanese interviewee used was to describe how different generations in his country use handheld computers. In particular, older folks who “have trouble remembering their PINs” simply touch their Palms to a reader on ATMs, and the locally stored information provides access to their funds.

Arguably, this is exactly why the Wii is so attractive to non-traditional gamers – and why Nintendo had a presence at the AARP last month. Their philosophy appears to be to respond to the demands of people who’ve never picked up a (confusing) controller in their lives, not to people who have games hard-wired into their brains.

So if, for the sake of continuity, this move on the part of Nintendo and Sony (EyeToy, SingStar etc) is aimed at gratifying the demands of people who are getting older, what else will we see in the future which concedes to the degeneration of the human body as the world’s largest demographic in history marches inevitably towards the geriatric ward?

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