Quick -- you'll get three free lives and a bonus power-up if you can describe today's typical video gamer. What's that you say? Sallow-skinned teenager basking in the glow of a computer screen in a basement bedroom at his parents' house? Buzz. The aliens won, the Earth is lost. Game over.
Actually, the profile of the average gamer is as surprising as finding a video game machine that still operates with only a quarter: It's a 37-year-old man, according the most recent survey conducted by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that the average age of a video game purchaser is 41, or that a full 39 percent of all gamers are above the age of 50.
That makes nearly half of all gamers baby boomers -- the portion of society that was born between 1946 and 1964.
Sure, some of them are playing video games with their kids and grandkids (ESA says 45 percent of parents do exactly that), but many more are tapping keys, wielding controllers and dragging their fingers across touch screens for their own enjoyment.
To help with the fun, here we present 10 games boomers are sure to love (and a few that might actually help keep them fit, too).
10: Brain Age
Americans are probably the society most often associated with the baby boom, but we by no means have the market cornered on aging. In Japan, 20 percent of the population is now over 65, which is a record for that nation [source: Pearce].
This led video game giant Nintendo to focus on the rapidly growing demographic. They partnered with Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, a neuroscience researcher at Tohoku University, whose researched showed that certain types of games could actually reduce the symptoms of dementia and other brain-related illnesses. Enter Brain Age, a game designed to keep aging brains around the world in top shape. The Nintendo DS game was released in the United States in 2006 and proved to be immensely popular [source: Pearce]. Since then, Nintendo has released the equally popular Brain Age 2.
The games present a series of brain-teaser type puzzles in which players strive to improve upon their previous completion times. There are word and math puzzles, a piano-playing game, Sudoku and even a voice-recognition rock/paper/scissors game. After completing a series of challenges, the system reveals your "Brain Age" which, participants hope, is not any older than their real age.
9: Wii Fit Plus
Not only did Nintendo invent video games to help the mind stay fit, with the introduction of the Wii Fit in May 2008, it also turned gaming into a way to keep the body fit. The Wii Fit uses a revolutionary balance board in concert with the Wii system's nun-chucks-like Wiimote controllers to get people moving through a series of exercises that feel more like fun than fitness.
The follow-up to the Wii Fit -- the Wii Fit Plus -- was released in 2009 and was still the sixth most popular video game in the ESA's ranking of the top video games of 2010.
While there are traditional core-strengthening and balance exercises like planks, push-ups and various yoga routines, the real fun of the Wii Fit Plus comes with activities like snowball fights, hula-hooping, skateboarding and even heading soccer balls.
Although most boomers are still a long way from thinking about nursing homes, they'll be encouraged to know that the Wii Fit game systems are even finding their way into those facilities, helping residents do something they never could in their youth -- use a video game to stay limber and strong.
8: Just Dance
If exercising along with an avatar on TV is still not enough motivation to get boomers moving, there's a game on the Wii that should get the job done: Just Dance. First released in late 2009, the game has racked up two installments with Just Dance II earning the seventh spot in the EAS survey of the top 20 video games of 2010.
To play, gamers simply hold the Wiimote and do their best to keep up with the dancing figure on the screen. When Just Dance III comes out in late 2011, it will also be released for Xbox's Kinect in addition to the Wii system, which means dancers won't even need to hold a remote to shake their groove thing. The Kinect will sense their moves and score them accordingly.
If baby boomers worry that the music won't be to their liking, they'll have to think again. Installments I and II feature such songs as "Mashed Potato Time," "Proud Mary," "I Get Around," "Le Freak," "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "Walk Like an Egyptian." Enough to let both ends of the boomer spectrum get their groove on.
Boomers tend to like adventure games: immersive experiences that transport them in other worlds through high-quality graphics and a good storyline [source: Pearce].
The granddaddy of all adventure games is Myst, first released on CD ROM in 1993. The game was the No. 1 best-selling PC game of all time until it was surpassed by The Sims in 2002 and was a true groundbreaker in the world of adventure gaming when it was released [source: Webster's Online Dictionary]. Myst puts the player in the first-person role of "The Stranger" who discovers a book entitled Myst that whisks him or her away to world with no instructions. Left disoriented, the character and gamer must explore the environment for clues by moving slide-by-slide through the three-dimensional screens and figuring out the appropriate next steps. Different endings emerge as a result of different decisions.
This game appeals to boomers in particular because it has no real threat of dying, no time limit and therefore, no stress -- all qualities ranked highly in boomer gamer polls [source: Pearce].
To introduce Myst to a new generation, the game has been developed for iOS and is now available on the iTunes store.
6: Nancy Drew: Shadow at the Water's Edge
Another trend among baby boomer gamers is that they gravitate toward games based on books they liked when they were younger [source: Pearce].
One of the most popular franchises of these games is the Nancy Drew series. In the 23rd release, Shadow at the Water's Edge, the young detective travels to Japan to investigate a possible haunting of a ryokan -- a traditional Japanese family-run inn. Gorgeous graphics abound as the gamers take on the roll of Nancy Drew and have the chance to solve puzzles, interrogate characters and even use an in-game cell phone to take pictures and play additional games. Along the way, gamers get to learn about various facets of Japanese culture like origami and tea ceremonies.
5: Fallout New Vegas
If Myst is the past, Fallout New Vegas is the future -- literally. The game takes place in a post-nuclear-apocalypse Las Vegas that somehow survived the deadliest war ever seen on Earth. And unlike the mostly unpopulated world of Myst, Fallout is peopled with characters of all stripe including prostitutes, drunks and mercenaries.
There are also, of course, plenty of casinos to visit as you play an "average Joe" exploring the grungy world in a quest to figure out how he nearly died before the story began. It's definitely a rougher style of exploring game than Myst, but for those boomers who like a little blood and dust in their vividly-drawn immersive universe, few games will satisfy as much as this.
4: The Lost Crown
Gameboomers.com is a Web site that caters to -- what else -- baby boomers and the games they love. Every year it compiles a list of the top games as ranked by its members and, in 2010, the No. 1 spot on that list was claimed by The Lost Crown [source: Gameboomers.com].
This is another point-and-click, adventure-style game but the twist here is that the main character is able to use a host of gadgets in his quest to uncover riches -- and ghosts. These tools help unveil a world within the main world of Saxton, England (the village where the game takes place) that is populated by members of the spirit world. The gadgets, such as a voice recorder and night-vision video camera also help the main character solve a host of puzzles that are presented throughout the game.
The graphics are extremely realistic (some are actual photographs through which the character can move), the soundtrack is especially spooky and there is plenty of reading to do for those who like to think of their adventure games as a storybook come to life.
3: Angry Birds
Imagine trying to pitch the idea to an app developer: a game where you fling a variety of birds through the air to collide with stick and stone structures that collapse on (and cause death to) pigs clad in varying degrees of protective gear.
Yet somehow, Angry Birds was indeed developed and has earned a spot in the iTunes Hall of Fame -- both in its iPhone and iPad HD incarnations.
For boomers who fit the model of not liking games that involve racing against the clock; having to stab, slice or shoot at anything at all; or competing with other players, Angry Birds is gaming nirvana. It requires nothing more than a steady(ish) finger, a basic understanding of angles, a dislike of pugnacious pigs -- and days of free time, because it is truly one addictive app.
Not so much a particular game as a gaming site, Winster flips the traditional gaming model of competition on its head and churns out simple slot-machine style games that have a focus on cooperation -- a quality that boomers seem to appreciate.
The site features a series of games such as Slot Social and Burger Buddy where players can donate cards, tokens, slot machine graphics or pieces of a burger in order to help the other players on the screen make the best hands. There is a chat window to encourage conversation -- adding a social component to the game that is also greatly valued by boomer gamers. Occasionally, game moderators join in to cheer people on and give away valuable tokens.
When scores reach a certain level, players are given vouchers they can use in the Winster store. The game is free unless players want to get rid of the persistent and lengthy ads that interrupt game play by paying for an ad-free membership.
Anyone who has even occasional online exposure has no doubt heard about the Facebook-based game known as Farmville. Lesser-known, perhaps, is Farmerama, an online game from Bigpoint that allows you to run a farm -- from tilling land and raising animals, to planting and harvesting crops that you sell in the nearby town. It is fast becoming a global sensation and costs nothing to join. The game not only allows players to grow crops, they can also grow bonds with other players by planting community flower gardens and inviting friends to join in -- providing boomers the sociability they so enjoy in gaming.
The characters in the game were designed specifically with women in mind (which is why they have big eyes, according to the game developers), but the experience can easily be enjoyed by men as well. Or, for guys who want to escape the country air, there's RamaCity, another release from Bigpoint, specifically targeted to men. Male boomers are likely to appreciate the social component of this game as well -- as they can send citizens to the cities of other players to assist with getting things running smoothly.
Lots More Information
- 5 Social Networking Sites for Baby Boomers
- 5 False Stereotypes About Baby Boomers
- 10 Modern Technologies Baby Boomers are Using
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