Updated: Sep 2, 2020
Twenty years ago, the video game world was typically thought of as exclusive to teenagers and young adults. Growing up in the early 2000s myself, I was often chastised by my own grandparents for playing video games, as they believed that games were little more than -as they so delicately put it- “a complete waste of time”. In 2008, however, something changed. As my grandfather grew older in years, he began to spend an increasing amount of time at home. With too much time on his hands and too little to do, he decided to purchase a Nintendo DS on a whim as something to help him pass the time, and before we knew it... he was hooked! Among some of his favourite games were Brain Age, Solitaire and of course, Nintendogs.
He especially liked puzzle games, and often used them to keep his mind active, that’s why games like Brain Age were so appealing to him. Nintendogs, meanwhile, was a great stress reliever- plus as an avid dog-lover, it was fun to play! At the time, I thought my grandfather must be the only grandparent in the world that played
video games. I remember always bragging to my friends at school about how cool he was; however, with the massive rise in popularity of the gaming industry over the past decade, older gamers are becoming more and more widespread. Nowadays, 44% of Americans above the age of 50 are now playing at least some form of video game (Nelson-Kakulla 2019).
So what caused this rising older generation of gamers? There may actually be more than one answer. As video games become more popular in the mainstream, older generations are becoming increasingly aware of the many benefits that videogames have to offer them.
One major reason that older generations take up gaming is to stay entertained. As older individuals find themselves spending increasing amounts of time at home with little to do, more and more are choosing to pick up the controller as a way of keeping things fun. This of course rings true now more than ever, with older generations being among the most susceptible to the COVID-19 pandemic, many are faced with no choice but to isolate in order to stay safe. With older generations stuck at home now more than ever, video games can certainly be a way of escapism in the wake of unpleasant times.
2. Cognitive Exercise
Another benefit of gaming at an older age is keeping your cognitive functions sharp. With many fearing the onset of neurological diseases such as alzheimers or dementia, video games offer a way to keep minds fresh and active. This may come in the form of more puzzle-oriented games such as Brain Age in my grandfather’s case, however cognitive exercise can be found in just about any game- whether it be in the form of learning a new control scheme, exercising quick reflexes, or applying strategy and problem-solving skills, every game is a mental workout in some form or another.
3. Stress Relief
Another health benefit to playing video games is their potential for stress relief. This is certainly isn’t true for all games of course, with Zelda boss battles being among some of the most stressful moments in my childhood. However, slower-paced games such as Animal Crossing, which place little pressure on the player and allow them to explore at their own pace, have been known to have quite a calming effect on players (Rosenblatt 2019). For older generations who are not itching to play through fast-faced escapades, but are instead looking for something laidback and low commitment, these games can be a very useful tool for relaxation while all the while maintaining mental stimulation.
Videogames have alway been a way of connecting with others; whether it be playing at home with your friends, at an arcade, or gaming online. Now, in an increasingly digital world, more people over the age of 50 are taking up gaming as a way of staying connected to the younger generations. A primary example of this are grandparents, who are now playing games that they can enjoy with their grandchildren, using video games as a way of growing closer together through a shared common interest (Rosenblatt 2019). Furthermore, video games are a way of spending time together with your friends and family even while apart. This again rings especially true during the pandemic, with many families separated due to isolation. In times such as these, online gaming can be a way of still spending time together no matter where you are.
So how can the videogame industry grow to accommodate this increasing demographic of older gamers?
If many people over the age of 50 play video games to keep their cognitive abilities sharp, perhaps this would be a good place to start exploring, studying more ways in which video games' can further exercise our brains. If we can pinpoint the most effective ways to strengthen our cognitive functions through video games, we can expand on these principles and apply them to a wider range of games. By isolating which aspects of video games affect which parts of the brain, we may be able to develop a rating system for customers to check what type of cognitive workout each game will provide, making it easier to pair older audiences with games that match their specific cognitive needs. This accommodation need not only exist in puzzle games like Brain Age, but could be included in more mainstream games as well, giving older gamers a wider range of choices in games to play. Perhaps even more members of the older generation would even pick up gaming if this information was all readily available to them.
The other area that could be expanded upon is connection. If older gamers are indeed picking up their controller to stay connected with their children and grandchildren, then perhaps we can expand upon the genre of family-friendly games, creating more mainstream games that are appealing to both older and younger generations; games that can provide a wide range of cognitive exercises while still being fun for younger players, facilitating teamwork and connection no matter the distance of players from one another. If we can create more games like this in a wider range of genres, there is a greater chance that grandparents and their grandchildren can find a game that is of shared interest to both of them. I have yet to find a videogame that my grandmother wants to play, but it’s never too late to make one!
Rosenblatt, K. (2019) Older People are Embracing Video Games. For Some, that means Stardom. [online] Kalhan Rosenblatt. Available at:
Nelson-Kakulla, B. (2019) Who Is the 50+ Gamer? [online] Brittne Nelson-Kakulla. Available at: