I read a well-researched, fascinating article the other day titled “Tales of an aging gamer: Why don’t I pick up a controller as often as I used to?“, by Theo Karasavvas. I highly suggest you read it before you read this article, but if that’s tl;dr for you (too long; didn’t read), I’ll try to quickly summarize.
This article does a great job of exploring the idea that as they age, gamers often drift out of gaming and don’t tend to consider it part of their identity. It suggests we shift from more social, competitive, and time-consuming games (survival horror, racing, first-person shooter, fighting, and massively multiplayer online games) to a more casual or solo gaming experience that focuses on “careful decision-making and planning” (real-time strategy games, online puzzles, and brain teasers). Furthermore, as we age out of the target demographic, gamers may feel less engaged or interested in the games they once loved; our interests and priorities change, but the popular themes and mechanics of successful games don’t.
Karasavvas’ article goes on to point out that aging gamers may prefer more material rewards for time spent, like the health benefits of yoga classes as opposed to piling up game achievements, as well as the fact that they very likely have less free time to spend on gaming as they get older. It also quotes many studies done about the subject and highlights the benefits of gaming for your brain as you age. Again, I strongly recommend reading it.
This article really made me think; I find myself marveling at my seeming immunity to this concept of “aging out” of gaming. Like the author, I started gaming in the late eighties. My fortieth birthday isn’t that far away. I always preferred solo or cooperative gaming to toppling people off of leaderboards. I still like my MMOs and RPGs, despite how time consuming they are. I find them both satisfying (because you never outgrow a good story) and rewarding; they still manage to tickle the reward center of my brain, providing a sense of accomplishment despite the lack of material, real-life rewards.
Could this be because I’m a lady gamer?
It could very well be some other reason, simply that I am who I am and I like what I like that has so far granted me immunity to this concept. But I cannot deny that many of the things I like about gaming are what people would consider “girly.”
My primary motivations in a game tend to be story, fantasy, completion, design, and community. Apparently, according to data collected by Quantic Foundry in 2016, these are things female gamers tend to be more interested in.
I have always preferred story to gameplay. Not that gameplay isn’t important, but I can forgive a lot if the game’s story is good and the characters are interesting (I’m looking at you, original release of Odin’s Sphere). Also, I love exploring the world/setting in video games! The more immersive and detailed the peoples and factions, the better.
I hate competitive games (according to that same data, male gamers much prefer to compete). I want to feel like I’m part of a team helping my friends out. I couldn’t care less about the thrill of sniping some other player in the head. I hate being at the bottom of the scoreboard if I’m bad at the game (and if it’s a shooter, I probably am). I am a worker ant. Let me heal your wounds, build and fortify your base, and gather and tend your resources, please.
I’m always the last person keeping the home fires burning in an MMO my buddies and I play, maintaining the guild house and piling up resources, just in case they come drifting back. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, but it always makes me happy to be able to provide a smooth transition back into the game for them, to shower them with crafting materials and lots of tips to get them back into running dungeons or beating bosses or whatever else they like to do.
My primary sources of satisfaction in a game are an in-depth, well-written narrative (story), being part of a team (community, design– I like to build and customize things for their benefit), or building a hyper-leveled team of demi-gods if I’m playing a solo RPG (completion). My gaming preferences sound pretty girly according to Quantic Foundry’s data.
Unlike the stereotypes, I don’t prefer “casual” games and I don’t just like non-violent games. Yes, I do love me some Minecraft (which can completely lack violence if you choose to play that way, and I often do), but if you’ve been reading my articles lately, you’ll see I’ve also been playing a lot of Monster Hunter: World lately, and let me tell you . . . violent. Also, that game requires quite a bit of skill, which is also seen as something that female gamers probably lack and don’t particularly care about, stereotypically.
I have also always identified as a gamer, ever since I started playing. I remember saying that exactly to people in conversations in high school when they asked me what I liked to do: I’m a gamer. I still say it. I probably said it to someone yesterday!
So unlike the typical aging gamer, according to the article and the studies it cites, my preferences in gaming are what they always were, and haven’t really changed as I’ve aged (so far). I have always considered gaming part of my identity. I’m happy with a time-consuming game if it meets my criteria, despite my growing lack of precious free time. It’s something I make time for.
Also unlike the other aging gamers, if I’m playing a game with others I want to cooperate and always have, instead of aging into that preference. Real-time strategy games, online puzzles, and brain teasers don’t really do it for me– although by the numbers they should have started looking more appealing to me by now– but then again, the types of games I like to play require lots of planning and decision-making anyway, everything from Monster Hunter: World to Minecraft and beyond.
Therefore, based on the idea that a lot– but not all– of my gaming preferences seem to be “girly” . . . well, congratulations, lady gamers. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got a long gaming career ahead of you. And the science cited in Karasavvas’ article suggests that’s going to do a lot for your mental clarity as you age. So keep getting your game on, ladies . . . and gentlemen too, obviously. If that’s what you like to do and you’re somehow defying the aging gamer trends like I am, gobble up those brain benefits and enjoy yourselves with pride and contentment. I certainly intend to.
Note: I realize I only talked about video games, as did Karasavvas’ article. I doubt I’ll ever outgrow tabletop role-playing either, which is satisfying for me in many of the same ways the video games I like to play are. I imagine many of the same arguments apply, in any case? Game on, regardless.
Picture Credit: All credit for this awesome icon goes to Gan Khoon Lay on Iconfinder.com! You can buy this one, go look! https://www.iconfinder.com/icons/3409250/computer_elderly_gamer_granny_lady_old_woman_icon