Will there ever be a Call of Duty: Seniors’ Edition? It’s a question I found myself asking after speaking with a CTV reporter the other day.
The reporter was working on a story about a recent study that involved World of Warcraft and senior citizens. According to the study’s co-author, Dr. Jason Allaire at North Carolina State University, “People who played ‘World of Warcraft’ versus those who did not play experienced an increase in cognitive ability, particularly older adults who performed very poorly in our first testing session.” In other words, World of Warcraft – and video games in general – may be good for older people.
My input to the story came in assessing the future market for video games – a market that looks to expand greatly given that the gaming population is generally getting older. I hadn’t thought much about it before, but it’s indeed a fascinating topic.
The first game console, the Magnavox Odyssey, came out in 1972, but it wasn’t much of a success (the story is thoroughly detailed in Sex, Bombs and Burgers). Atari released its considerably more successful Pong console in 1975, followed by the 2600 – the first real hit home video game machine – in 1977.
If we make the assumption that the youngest players of those consoles were six or seven years old at the time, that means the oldest people in the world today who have always played video games are in their mid-forties. Put another way, we’re still about 20 years away from having senior citizens who can properly be called gamers.
This means the business is in for a profound change over the next two decades. While some people who played games as children or teenagers may have “outgrown” them, I suspect that for most people of my generation that’s not the case. We still play video games, but we may not have as much time for them or our tastes have changed. Personally, maybe that’s why I can’t dig a game like Gears of War 3 like I used to.
There’s something to that. We like to think that we get smarter and wiser as we age which, if true, means our games will have to do the same. Right now, games that are rated “M for Mature” generally only get that label because they’re especially violent or they have profane language. Perhaps, in the near future, the “Mature” rating will instead apply to games that truly cater to older gamers, similar to how this year’s crop of Best Picture Oscar nominees could only possibly appeal to septuagenarians and above.