When I’m not using my morning commute to work to draft blog posts, I usually spend those hours catching up on gaming news. Lately it seems as though there isn’t a week which goes by where I don’t come across something which inspires a discussion. Last month was no exception: this time it was an article on the Metro website entitled Survey hails rise of ‘granny gamers’ with one in four over-65s playing video games.
The research was apparently commissioned by Ukie’s Must Play May, a campaign designed to bring families together to play the most appropriate and enjoyable releases. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to track down the original source and see the findings for myself but according to the Metro, a survey of 2,000 adults revealed that as many as 27% of over-65s claimed to have played a video game in the past five years. This increased to 85% for under-35s, and I’ve gathered the following figures together.
I’m a little shocked these figures have come as a surprise to many people. Individuals included in that oldest classification above would have been around when the first home PCs and consoles became available, so if they got into the hobby back then it makes sense that at least a fraction would still have an interest in it now. Take my own dad as an example: I can remember him getting a Commodore 64 in the 1980s when my brother and I were very young, and us sitting either side of him so we could watch him play titles such as Ghosts ‘Goblins and Paperboy.
If you follow this train of thought, it therefore also makes sense that a high percentage of people in my own age group play video games too. Our parents occasionally played them, they were a part of our lives growing up and we became accustomed to them. Picking up a controller and turning on a game with a partner feels as familiar as sitting down together to watch a film; and some of us would rather do the former because of their interactivity. As I wrote in March, we may ultimately arrive at set end-points determined by a developer, but the choices we make along the way transform a plot into our own story.
Keeping this thinking going, it’s understandable then why as many as 85% of under-35s play video games in one form or another. They’re now a part of everyday life and younger generations have seen their parents regularly participate in the hobby, even playing together as a family. For me personally it was a way to bond with my stepson when I was first introduced to him five years ago. It’s still a big part of our lives now: you’ll often find us chatting about new releases, hanging out at expos, or taking our PlayStation VR to family parties to rope everyone into having a go.
I think the nature of video games has changed also for this youngest group and they no longer operate as simply entertainment. They’re also a kind of ‘social space’ and the lines between gaming and social media platforms are blurring. Part of the reason for this is online multiplayers and cooperative titles where it’s necessary to work together to achieve a goal, along with the ability to share screenshots and gameplay straight from your console. For example, my stepson doesn’t like Fortnite – but he still signs in on Friday nights so he can ‘hang out’ with his school friends.
These youngsters will be the grandchildren of the people in the over-65s group so let’s take the discussion back to them now. According to the Metro’s report, 31% of the oldest people surveyed said they used video games ‘as an excuse for interacting with them’ and ‘more than half said they were interested in playing with younger members of the family’. The variety of releases available nowadays is huge and there’s something both suitable and enjoyable for absolutely everybody, so what better way to make everyone feel involved than by handing them a controller.
Gaming can be a means of both social interaction and keeping your mind active. For anyone who’s no longer able to continue with their previous hobbies because they don’t have the stamina or capability, video games can provide a way to relate to others and be a member of a community. As said by 97-year old Joan Low in an article about the Must Play May survey on The Telegraph’s website: “I used to play with my family and enjoyed the company and playing them. So now when you’re on your own, I found it interesting to do and I can play against the computer. It gives me a challenge, in fact I think I’m addicted!”
We’re now seeing a generation of parents who grew up playing video games themselves and are passing their passion and knowledge onto their children. I think that’s awesome: it’s like a circle of gaming life.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.