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Old Grandma Hardcore

By Shamus
on Friday Feb 1, 2008
Filed under:


Here is an interesting gamer: A “hardcore” gamer who is a woman over the age of X, where X is a number I’m too polite to guess at.

It does make me wonder why this is quite such a rare thing. Why aren’t more seniors into gaming? I’m not talking about “why don’t they make more low-key casual games to appeal to the WWII generation”, I’m talking about “Why don’t a few of them get into shooters and RTS games with the rest of us?” It’s not for everyone, but it’s clearly a fun hobby for some people. Yet in this multi-billion dollar industry the idea of a grandma pwning n00bs and so on is rare enough to merit news coverage.

Still, the more the merrier.

Comments (31)

  1. Rich says:

    Grandma on parenting:

    “They get a call from a teacher who says they acted up in class or they told a teacher off or she isn't doing their homework or he just has an apathetic attitude about everything and they think “alright, what caused it.” And instead of seeing that… gap or whatever you want to call it in their kid's life where they no longer are, they see the stuff that fills it up. They blame MySpace, they blame Xbox, they blame Rockstar Games, they blame text-messaging, they blame that new friend they've seen over the house once and a while to play Guitar Hero and they blame Guitar Hero, too.

    But they never blame themselves! These people aren't stupid, they're just lazy. But not lazy to the point where they don't vote, unfortunately.”

    Grandma for President!

  2. Inane Fedaykin says:

    I used to play Diablo 2 with a man in his 60s

    I don’t really have any conclusions to offer, he was just like any other guy playing a game.

  3. ReluctantDM says:

    I’m in a Counter-Strike: Source clan called the Family Gaming Alliance which has several members older than 60 who pwn us youngin’s (I’m 28) on a regular basis! Only problem is that there are some young teen agers in the clan too (children of other members) who always end up forcing the old guys into a “stay off my lawn you whippersnappers” type situation. It mostly ends in hilarity! :)

  4. Chip says:

    Part of it might be that many seniors haven’t “internalized” computers the way that those of us who grew up with them have. They may seem a little daunting and foreign to those who aren’t familiar with them.

    For shooters and other games that require fast reflexes and good hand/eye coordination, the elderly may not feel that they can keep up.

    Obviously, this is a huge generalization, but it might explain part of the age gap.

  5. A good friend of mine (we’re all in our mid thirties) has a mother that plays World of Warcraft for hours every day…

  6. Jacob says:

    I introduced my grandparents to the Internet just last month. It’s not that they are apprehensive about the technology; it’s just that it didn’t appear until late in their lives so there wasn’t much incentive to jump on the bandwagon.

  7. houser2112 says:

    Last month, I was at a LAN party playing HL1, and the father of one of the guy’s played with us. He was only slightly behind me in kills (which could be damning with faint praise, as I’m pretty poor at FPS games in general).

  8. Matthew Allen says:

    Hehehe… When I worked at EB we had three fanatically loyal customers who were awesome.

    1. A babtist preacher who bought mostly horribly violent shooters and anything horror related. He rocked.
    2. A grey haired(late 60s early 70s) who was into anything sim plane related. He was a fanatic about realism.
    3. His wife, who played every pc adventure that we got. Well, the not horrible ones. She trusted us for advice and checked the review sites before making purchases.

    Great people.

  9. Roy says:

    My wild and irresponsible speculation:

    1. The generation gap – as others have pointed out, there’s a difference between being exposed to computers and video gaming during your formative years, and being introduced to it when you’ve already entered middle aged and are starting/raising a family, and a fair number of the older generation don’t have the comfort with computers and digital gaming that those of us weened on Atari and Nintendo do.

    2. I think that there’s also a progressional aspect related to 1- it’s not just comfort with computers that prevents some people from getting into “hardcore gaming”, there’s also the ways that games associated with “hardcore” gaming tend to be built on the foundations of the games before them- if you’ve never played an FPS before, jumping into some of the more complicated FPS out there today is going to be really daunting. The controls feel intuitive to us because we’ve been conditioned to expect certain buttons to do certain things and have adopted more and more complicated control schemes as a result.

    3. Marketing – Games aren’t marketed to the older crowd, and, in fact, a lot of advertising for games probably alienates some potential audiences. Video Gaming culture thrives on being exclusionary and the manufacturers and distributors have built up a loyal following that is willing to invest large ammounts of money for their products. Non-gamers- particularly non-gamers who fall outside of the normal gaming demographic, are likely to feel like and be treated like outsiders by the gaming community. While some of us- a lot of us that visit here, I think- are pretty welcoming to outsiders, gaming culture in general- and particularly internet gaming- isn’t very friendly to noobs.

  10. Deoxy says:

    In part, it has to do with marketing – marketing is targetted by many categories, age being one of them.

    And it actually makes some sense, market-share, chicken-or-egg sort of way. That is, if there are exceedingly few people in that age group who would consider buying your product, why bother? (How many “feminine hygiene” product commercials do you see during the Super Bowl, for instance?) But then, if you don’t market your stuff to them, this is a situation that is likely not to change…

    Edit: this was put in while I was typing, but QFT: While some of us- a lot of us that visit here, I think- are pretty welcoming to outsiders, gaming culture in general- and particularly internet gaming- isn't very friendly to noobs.

    Edit 2: In fact, come to think of it, I think there’s a whole web-comic with that as the primary, driving schtick. The Noob

  11. Darin says:

    Weird, but last night before I went to bed I was wondering how many retirement homes have D&D players? You figure, got all day to game, lots of people who might enjoy it. Don’t know what this all collectively means, tho.

  12. Oleyo says:

    My dad has a level 70 Warcraft character and he is over 50. I am only level 66 myself! I joke that he is the highest level noob in the game, but he obviously gets along just fine. Its actually a really nice bonding experience when myself, my two brothers and my dad are all in a group in Warcraft. He has worked hard his whole life and didnt really have a hobby before this so its nice for him. He isnt totally new to games, we used to play the original Command and Conquer a lot as well. As Shamus said, I dont know why more older folks dont jump onboard.

    Actually, my mother who never playes ANY games, for some reason loved Goldeneye for the N64. She blew us away by making it to the next to the last Antenna Cradle mission! Sadly, she could never manage the coordination to jump down the hole and kill Alec Trevelyan, but she gets an A in my book :)

  13. Ben says:

    Not entirely relevant, but my mother kicks my butt at FPS’s.

  14. Craig says:

    Well, I can’t answer for senior citizens, but I know as far as my parents go, they have a huge problem with the violence in video games. Not the effect it has on kids, mind you, they just would never want to hurt someone and don’t understand why simulating it is fun. I also remember that one of the guys on penny arcade interviewed his grandfather about WWII and shooters, and he said that WWII or any killing should not be encouraged in any format. Or something like that. Plus, the whole, “WHAT IS THE INTERNET?!?” factor is hard to ignore.

    Forgot to mention, though, that my dad loves the civilization games, and kicked my ass at warcraft.

  15. Mr. Son says:

    With my grandmother, it’s mostly the fact that a lot of games these days require a certain level of reflexes that she just doesn’t have.

    I keep trying to get her into games where she can take her time; mostly turn-based RPGs. She has showed a vague interest, but it’s hard to find a balance between a fun game that appeals to her, and something she actually has the physical capacity to play.

    I don’t think she could ever play something like the Halo series. It just demands too much twitch reflexes.

  16. Katy says:

    Twenty-five years ago, my mom gave herself trigger finger (or maybe it was tendonitis) playing Pac-Man and Lode Runner on our Atari 800. She’s always liked puzzle games, though — I don’t think I’ve ever seen her playing any sort of FPS game.

  17. Rick says:

    Maybe you are looking at this all wrong:

    Why aren’t we getting off our butts, going outside and playing stick ball?

  18. Roy says:

    “Why aren't we getting off our butts, going outside and playing stick ball?”

    Wait, you mean you’re not?

  19. Mike says:

    Most seniors don’t even get near a computer for “normal” uses, let alone gaming….

  20. Sandrinnad says:

    well, it’s not a game but a family friend first got online at 93. She wanted to send email rather than write letters.

    stickball? na, how about badminton?

  21. Miako says:

    I saw a job listing for some video games marketed to retirement homes. And with the whole ‘wii lets you move around’ shtick going on, it may really help old folks.

    Did I mention we have my mother in law running Linux? She’s damn fast with the ‘net too.

    I know a grandma on a MUD — she plays an evil warder (male), which I always find interesting. Good Roleplayer too. Because she plays a male combatfighter in game, it surprises people when she mentions finding time at the nursing home to go play…

    I think the real reason why Video Games haven’t caught on is that they aren’t treated like family affairs. Ages ago, people had pinball — but girls didn’t play that, either. In Germany, board games are a family event. We could do that in America too. Which would make for a good market segment ‘parents who want to have fun with kids’

  22. Miako says:

    After a certain point, people lose the ability to learn new things (about eighty). This doesn’t stop my boss’ father from discussing the new iPhone (he has it mapped to cordless phones and transistors, things that he is more familiar with).

  23. Aaron says:

    Stickball? Dude that’s what my Wii is for!

    My father is almost 60. My first console system was the Atari 2600. He would sit and watch me play Combat for about an hour, then fall asleep. He’s since remarried and has 14 year old son, and he’ll watch my little brother play PS2 games (or Wii, don’t know if they’ve updated yet) for HOURS … but absolutely refuses to pick up a controller. For some, I’d say it’s just personal preference. It’s hard to define an entire generation, especially on the subject of video game tech ;)

  24. Cadamar says:

    It probably is a question of accessability. As others have pointed out already (and I see this in my own Grandmother) they are just hesitent or even afraid to expose themselves to the technology. My Grandmother will sit at the computer for hours playing solitar but when I offer to teach her how to use the web she absolutely refuses. I know she would love it if she just gave it a chance. For example, we were finally able to force a cell phone on her last fall (my folks even pay for it). She faught against it kicking in screaming but now she loves it and can’t imagine not having it.
    Anyway, the reason I say accessability is because of the Wii. I bought my Mother a Wii for Christmas. Once we were able to convince my Grandmother that all she had to do was hold the controller and move it around she immediately began kicking our butts. Her and my Mother now regularly play each other in the evenings enough to complain of Wii-itis.

  25. Chris Arndt says:

    My sixty-two year old mother loves Tetris type games.

    Although I imagine most oldies wouldn’t like network games where brat chatters use harsh language.

    like “Horse flicker”

  26. Cuthalion says:

    My grandparents don’t do video games, but my parents dabble in them. They grew up (i.e. high school/college) in the 80s, and my dad used to play Descent (the first one). He gave me a love for that game, and sometimes did co-op with us. My mom now plays our wii a lot, I think, after being gamerized with mario party for the 64. But try to teach them an RTS, and they can’t remember all the stuff involved. So they stick with party games mostly. Wii Sports, Mario Party, Rayman (my mom loves the choir game where you slap the rabbit kids), etc.

    Essentially, the things that keeps my parents from more hardcore gaming are time and learning curve.

  27. Clyde says:

    I’m 47 and have been playing computer games since I was 14 and the games were text games like Sumer played on a mainframe computer after school. It was the punch card era. My first computer was a Commodore 64C, which I got to play games on. I’ve have had six or seven computers since then (I’m not a console guy). We did have a console that played Pong and hockey back in the mid-’70s. I grew up in a family that played a lot of card and board games. From there, it’s not that big a leap to computer games.

    My mom, who is in her late 60s, played some computer games like Myst, but I’m not sure if she plays any now. I think she’d rather be sailing, and has other more productive things to do on her computer. My dad, age 70, never has been much of a game player, and is barely computer-literate at all. He’s a bit of a technophobe, though.

    As current gamers age, they’ll continue to play computer and video games because it’s something they’ve always done for fun. You’ll see more and more seniors gaming as the years pass.

  28. Red says:

    I think it’s more the media needing ‘wacky’ news stories to fill in the blank than it is a massive absence of seniors. I mean, sure, they’ve got worse reflexes and it’s harder for them to learn things the older they get. The entire time and learning curve thing.

    But, like I said, the media does enjoy having its fun news-which-aren’t-really-news. I remember seeing a clip in which the station gushed about a chicken in Mexico that was laying green eggs. A lot of groups picked up on it. And most of the comments were along the lines of “But the (insert breed of chicken) lays blue/green eggs!” and “MY chicken lays green eggs which are more colorful than those!” So. Take it as you will.

  29. Sybarite says:

    Maiko “After a certain point, people lose the ability to learn new things (about eighty)”.

    This is completely untrue. I actually have a doctorate in cognitive development, with an emphasis on memory processes in older adults (So I officially have a clue), and while it does take older folks longer to learn our new fangled technology, it is far from impossible! The major limiting factors would be lack of interest, lack of exposure, and a society that reinforces the idea that playing computer or video games is not an appropriate activity for someone of XX years.
    Okay, rant over. :)

  30. Miako says:


    … and anecdotal evidence fails again. Would you say that it is senility, if someone at the age of eighty can’t remember what day it is? How prevalent is senility at that age?

  31. Andrew says:

    Go watch the movie “Grandma’s House”

    Pretty daft movie – but it drives the point home :)

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