Videogames are more popular than ever — in fact, earnings of videogame makers soared 27% last year, reaching $56.9 billion, according to the research firm NPD Group .
The boom is partly due to pandemic boredom and the desire to find new activities to pass the time and connect with others, but also because videogames are now a mainstream form of entertainment.
“Historically, game companies targeted only a narrowly defined audience,” says Joost van Dreunen, adjunct assistant professor in the Stern School of Business at NYU and author of “One Up: Creativity, Competition, and the Global Business of videogames.” But, he notes, “the digitalization of games and the popularization of the smartphone have resulted in a much broader and more diverse audience being interested in interactive entertainment experiences.”
That audience includes older adults. “The age of gamers has been skewing older for the past decade,” reports David S. Heineman, associate professor of communication studies at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and author of “Thinking About videogames: Interviews with Experts.”
“People who are 50 now were kids when the first Atari /zigman2/quotes/206760069/composite PONGF -7.09% systems came out and they also played arcade games, so there is a childhood nostalgia associated with videogames,” says Heineman. In addition, there’s been an evolution in the graphics of the games and a shift toward a wider array of stories that appeal to a broader audience than just teenage boys.”
Beyond shoot ’em up, racing and auto theft games, videogames now feature puzzles, task games, mysteries and even love stories.
Getting the hang of videogames
An AARP survey found that the number of adults over 50 who play videogames grew to 50.6 million in 2019 from 40.2 million in 2016 — and more women play than men.
I’m one of them.
I recently gave videogames a try during the pandemic as a way to connect with my 30-year-old nephew, Jared. He loves videogames and talks about them constantly, and it had been difficult for me to grasp why. We had always gone to movies together and out to dinner, but with the COVID-19 restrictions, we saw each other infrequently.
Jared was more than happy to lend me his Play Station (PS) 4 when he scored a highly coveted PS 5 this past Christmas. Once I got it set up, I signed up for a one-year subscription for $60 and we connected via the PS system with headphones.
We started with a multiplayer game called “Borderlands,” the point of which escaped me — beyond killing monsters and marauders who rush at you. I frequently found myself trapped staring at a wall, sky or floor while Jared killed everything around me. Occasionally, I would get off some shots by rushing the enemy, but that typically led to me dying. Of course, in videogames you get another chance, so it was all good.
My nephew was patient and instructive, so I gradually got the hang of the controller (so many buttons!) and what I was supposed to do. I even branched out on my own and attempted some solo games.
How do you start gaming?
You may already be a gamer and not even know it if you play games on your smartphone. “Words with Friends,” “Angry Birds,” “Bejeweled”and “Candy Crush” are all considered to be videogames, and many are free to play.