Making Games for Older Adults
Shortly after the Nintendo Wii launched, and ever since, pictures and videos of senior citizens enjoying a game of Wii Bowling or Tennis were common. After all, most people only imagine gamers to be young adults full of energy, making it unusual to see someone’s grandparents or even great-grandparents beating the high score, so the images make for good news items. Achieving such popularity through different age groups is not easy though, due to symptoms of old age, but researchers in the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society are publishing a study for game developers about engaging older adults.
Many other studies have shown there are benefits to older adults playing video games. These benefits come directly from the mental and social activity regular game-play involves. However, not all games are well designed for older adults who may not be able to read or remember onscreen text or icons, or identify certain objects. The researchers studied persons over 65 years old (with an average age of 82) playing the game Boom Blox to detail these issues and others.
Another issue to be overcome though is the stereotype that video games are violent, isolating, and require fast-twitch reactions. Older adults want the challenge games present though, along with the reward for success. If game developers can take these suggestions to heart (at least for some of their games) they could get at a new group of gamers not often looked at.