"Silver Gaming" in Germany

Videogames are more and more becoming a regular medium. Like older mediums (books, TV) they are increasingly being used by a variety of people (across gender and age barriers) for various different means (e.g. entertainment, learning). As part of this process different specialized markets emerge (this was one of the topics of my diploma thesis).
On the 25th of January 2010 the first congress about gamers exceeding the age of 50 took place in Germany. As project manager for the conference I was very happy we hit a nerve with the topic which we labelled „Silver Gaming“ (we were sold out 🙂 . The next conference will most likely be taking place end of April in Nuremberg.
I especially liked the presentation by Nintendo. They mentioned the pressure of the strong ageing in Japan as a main reason for the development of alternative input methods for their consoles.
Other presentations included:
  • Roland Weiniger (SpieleGilde (GamesGuild) Games Industry Association): Serious Games – A huge growth area for the cultural industry.
  • Prof. Dr. Karl-Werner Jäger (Committee of Standard Practice (ANP) in DIN registered association (e.V)): Standard framework for the development and organization of user interfaces of interactive systems and games
  • Guido Hunke (A.GE Bodensee agency for generational marketing, Ravensburg) and others: Games in the senior and generational marketing area
  • Hermann Beißer (Head of the Käthe-Reichert-Nursing Home Workers‘ Welfare Association (AWO) Nuremberg): Video games in assisted living and nursing homes
  • Prof. Dr. Helmut Herold, Prof. Ethelbert Hörmann, (Ohm-University Nuremberg): genesis – “nuts and bolts “ promotion/advancement with computer games
A first summary of the findings of the congress in German can be found in this press release. A more detailed documentation will be released on the website of the congress in the future.
If you are interested in the topic but Nuremberg is to far, you can meet many of the participants of the conference in the Xing (~German LinkedIn) Silver Gaming group.

Homework

I occasionally play games with the two nieces of my girlfriend. This got me thinking about how they are affected by playing them. In the case of the two little girls these were Wii Fitt, some horse game and Nintendogs.
I studied Sociology which helps me to self reflect on my gaming habits. But it is interesting how little we (who we design games) actually think what effect these games have on others. My diploma thesis showed that people have very different reasons why they play games and choose the games to play also depending on these reasons.
When I was a kid, I did not play games to learn. I also never played any specific learning game. But I think I still learned a lot from these games. In this post I don’t want to get into the question how the violence in these games might have affected me focus on two positive effects they might have had.
One of them was that I learned quite some English playing RPGs and Adventures. Playing them might also have been a great incentive for me to pay more attention to my English teacher.
Another type of game which aided my (basic) understanding about how the economy or society works were simulations like Railroad Tycoon or Civilization.

Today (as homework) I gave myself two topics I want to learn about in the future:

  • The two little girls are probably not old enough for all of the above games, but I will check out some games which they might like to play while additionally having a rather positive effect on them.
  • I want to learn more about how learning actually works.

In school the Math teacher told us that we would need this boring formulas our whole live and therefor should listen to him. He was right. While probably not everybody needs the formulas we all need the logical thinking we also learned on the way. Question is: Does a game like Crazy Machines help your logical ability in the same way as School Mathematic does. Neuropsychology should have something to say about it. What I know is that getting someone to play Crazy Machines is way easier than motivating him to attend a math class.

The million dollar question on learning programs and games is how much „learning“ these should be to actually being played.

Do Casual Gamer become Hardcore Gamer over time?

End of last year I conducted a survey on a casual games website (the German part of Zylom.com) and two Hardcore Games websites (Gamestar.de, Ingame.de).
In this blog I call the players from the casual games website casual gamers and the gamers from the hardcore games websites hardcore gamers.

I was very busy selling my own casual games company since the survey was online. Therefore I was only able to take a very brief look in a not statistically significant part of the data yet.
But this brief look already changed my view on the „most Casual Gamer will slowly become Hardcore Gamer“ topic.
The typical argumentation line is the following:
Casual games are way easier to pick up than hardcore games and are therefore the natural starting point for most non gamers.
Through playing casual games these gamers will over time become more experienced with computer games (becoming computer game literate) and will then slowly migrate to the more sophisticated hardcore games.

But my data does not support this as the Casual Gamers are already playing since 16 years while the HC Gamers only play since 10.

Therefore if you only look at the years of experience with computer games, the Casual Games are ahead.
This speaks against a general trend of casual gamers migrating to become hardcore gamers the longer they play.

In my survey the hardcore gamers have an average age of roughly 20, while the average age of the casual gamers is a bit below 40.
Youngsters are considered to have much more time to play games than older people.
And you generally need more time to play hardcore games than casual games. So how about hardcore gamers becoming casual gamers when they get older?
I did not ask about it, so this one is pretty much open for speculation. But what do you think judging your friends and family?

To sum it up I don’t think the years of experience are very important, but the age someone did play computer for the first time.
I think older persons are not as playful with new things like computers as kids are and therefore more easily frustrated and turning to the simple to learn casual games.
I my survey the hardcore gamers started playing with 10, the casual gamers with 20.

Most Finns play, but not computer.

When I was in Tampere this spring Frans Mäyrä presented a first glimpse of a massive quantitative study about gaming habits in Finland. The really great thing about their study is that it covers a pretty representative share of the Finnisch population and asks them about media usage and gaming habits. Therefore we don’t just have answers from gamers but also from non gamers. The final report was published now and I find it really interesting.

During the last month 66 % of the respondents reported playing traditional games, 59 % money games, 31 % digital games and 4 % engrossment games (LARP).

This means that when we want to study games, we should not only focus on computer games as these are not the dominant gaming form. Traditional games and money games are much more common. This fact is especially important for casual (computer) game studies as much more potential or actual casual gamers have experience with traditional or money games than with hardcore (computer) games. This can also partly explain why Solitaire is the most popular digital game (the other reason is the availability of this game on any Windows PC).

Back then in Tampere I was discussing with Frans Mäyrä the usage of their data for my own thesis. But I finally decided that I wanted a specifically designed casual-hardcore-games survey. Probably I will present my findings there in 2008.