Ask many people to define the typical gamer and the chances are that they’ll come up with a fairly similar answer.
A male somewhere between the ages of 16 and 25 who likes to stay bunkered in their room playing driving or shoot ‘em up games. Or, for the more nerdy amongst gamers, they may be engaged in building empires with a game like Minecraft.
But few people would be able to predict a far more surprising phenomenon that has started to emerge and grow in prominence over the last few years – the baby boomer gamer.
As we’ll see, this is one demographic that is becoming more and more committed to spending their leisure time, or some of it at least, playing online games.
Obviously, this is going to be more and more significant for the games creators themselves. So perhaps we can soon anticipate more titles being released specifically with this new audience in mind.
The facts and figures
Recent research into the habits and preferences of baby boomer gamers has thrown up some very interesting facts about how, when and why the over-50s choose to play.
The first of these is that around 42% of all the people surveyed have played video games at some point in the last year. Even more surprisingly, there is a slight bias towards women with 53% of baby boomer players being female.
In terms of the proportion of entertainment time gaming takes up, this is currently around 10%, far below the 35% of leisure being spent watching broadcast TV but not so far behind the 14% of time spent reading or watching streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Whereas our perception of the hard-core gamer is one who plays mainly on a PC or console like the PlayStation or Xbox, it’s a different story for the boomers. You’re far more likely to find them with a mobile phone or a tablet in their hands with 73% preferring this way to play compared with only 13% who use consoles.
Another key difference is the motivation for play. While there’s some evidence to suggest that grandparents indulge in a little gaming to connect with children and grandchildren, the vast majority of boomers (92%) say that it helps them to unwind.
This is a fact that is very much reflected in the types of games that they like to play.
Favoured game styles and titles
While there are obviously always going to be exceptions, in general baby boomers prefer to play games that involve puzzles and adventures than ones from the more violent end of the spectrum.
A prime example of the sort of game that’s incredibly popular is Brain Age. Extensive research by such august institutions as Harvard University have found that certain games can help to keep brains agile. The same research has found that ones that are too stimulating can have a detrimental effect, another good reason for boomers to steer well clear of these types of titles.
Another genre popular with boomers is the adventure game which allows them to explore new and unusual worlds where no real threat exists. A typical example of this is the classic Myst. The fact that the story gradually unfolds at exactly the pace that the player wants it to move forward makes it irresistible to many boomer gamers.
Other games, more rooted in the real world, include ones like Farmerama in which players need to build up a successful farm business and a particularly interesting feature of this game is that it has been developed primarily with female players in mind.
It’s also worth noting that online casinos also have great appeal with this age group. With a little extra cash to spare and maybe even the desire to enjoy the leisure pursuits of their youth, slots, poker, roulette and blackjack are all popular games.
Staying safe online
Playing in online casinos and also enjoying video games in general has also introduced baby boomers to the importance of looking after their online safety.
It’s helped them to become much more wary about revealing too much personal information online and the importance of using aliases when they play. For many, this is not something that would ever have occurred to them before. But now they see it as essential.
And, while boomers tend to prefer games that are free to play, sometimes payments have to be made. So, more and more are using digital wallets like the Paysafecard to pay for their online casino games and other video games. Especially useful when transacting with online casinos, as the name suggests this prevents any online fraudsters from getting access to a player’s bank account.
Looking to the future
The gaming industry is undoubtedly future-focused. So, we can be sure that developers are looking at new ways to serve the boomer market. This will become more and more relevant as an increasing number of the population hits the 50+ age range.
One area that is certain to become ever more important is nostalgia. So, we may well find that games are being released featuring TV shows and movies the target audience enjoyed in their youth.
Similarly, there are currently few games whose protagonists are baby boomers themselves. So maybe it’s time for a 50-year-old Lara Croft to come out of retirement!
But whatever the future holds, we can be sure of one thing. The boomer gaming boom is set to become an even bigger phenomenon.