For those not familiar with the video game business, AARP’s April Games Summit at its headquarters in Washington, DC, may appear strange. A group devoted to bringing together people aged 50 and up who want to discuss video games, a medium often associated with children and teenagers? But the conference makes perfect sense for AARP and the gaming industry.
An Expected Outcome from the AARP Games Summit
Recent research from AARP found that over half of adults aged 50 and up play video games, with a similar percentage reporting they do so on a daily basis. Also, this isn’t a tiny fraction of gamers. When comparing AARP’s claims with those of the Entertainment Software Association, it becomes clear that there are over 52 million Americans over the age of 50 who play video games, or about a quarter of all players in the United States.
A Often-Ignored Population
Game designer and associate professor at Northeastern University Bob De Schutter claims that the industry still consistently ignores or fails to build games with older individuals in mind. While 38% of gamers are between the ages of 18 and 34, that doesn’t imply that folks in their 40s and 50s aren’t enjoying and finding value in the latest Zelda game.
The Upsides to Gaming
Games are how we learn, according to the abundant research on the topic. and now at the age of 16 you’re expected to quit doing that? So claims De Schutter. Asking, “At 30, do you think you’ve learned everything there is to learn? When you reach 40, do you feel like you’ve finally met everyone? Do you feel like the world has stopped spinning once you hit 50? Not at all! That’s the genuine value of playing video games.
A Potentially Huge Market
Importantly for the gaming industry, mature consumers are already avid gamers. The AARP found that in the first half of 2019, gamers aged 50 and up spent $3.5 billion on video games. It’s a small percentage of the $35.4 billion made by the gaming business in the United States in 2016, but it represents an opportunity for a sector that is fixated on expansion.
What Must Be Done
De Schutter, who spoke at the AARP Games Summit, called it a “historical milestone” for the discussion of games for older audiences, though he concedes that more needs to be done. De Schutter argues that even now, when discussing games for players aged 50 and up, discussions tend to center around health and brain games.
Games Widely Played by Seniors
However, the vast majority of seniors are hooked on smartphone games, puzzle games, and other “casual” genres that attract players of all ages due to their ease of use and accessibility. De Schutter claims that there is a sizable subset of senior citizens that take pleasure in playing first-person shooters and other types of action games.
Barriers to Access
The problem isn’t that people over 50 aren’t interested in the games that 50+ players create; rather, the problem is that severe accessibility challenges prevent them from doing so. The controls are often convoluted, and even the intended-for-beginners tutorials can be confusing.
Disappointing Lack of Older Viewer Appeal
Many AAA video games also feature material that is inappropriate for people of a more mature age group. Games like “Call of Duty” and “Assassin’s Creed” are two of the biggest in the industry, and they all have ratings. Accessibility and inclusion, according to De Schutter, are the keys to creating games that are more enticing to older folks. This necessitates the development of games that are less intimidating to newcomers, feature intuitive controls, and appeal to a wider audience than those seeking a mental workout.
Successful games that appeal to an older demographic include “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.” In this game, which is set in the year 2020, you get to create and take care of your very own tropical paradise. The game’s accessibility has made it popular among players of all ages, including many retirees.
Equal representation is another crucial consideration. Video games for the elderly should cater to the wide range of players’ interests and experiences. Video games may be a significant instrument in the fight against exclusion and the promotion of diversity, especially when they feature elder characters or deal with topics of interest to older adults.
The video game business would be well to take note of the growing population of senior citizens and the opportunity presented by designing games specifically for them. There is a tremendous window of opportunity for growth and innovation in this sector as the baby boomer generation ages and more and more mature individuals become gamers.
The AARP Games Summit, in conclusion, is a significant development in recognizing the growing number of older individuals who play video games and the potential of this market. While there are obstacles to overcome in making games that mature audiences can enjoy, the gaming business stands to benefit greatly by welcoming this growing segment of the population.