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What Gamers Want: Silver Gamers

July 10, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

[How should game creators build titles to appeal to wider audiences? Following Gamasutra's look at kid-focused gaming, we organized game play sessions with older gamers to find the top 10 lessons for game creators.]

The next step in our endeavor to discover what gamers really want turns our attention to older players. This group, which we are pigeonholing as "Silver Gamers", are typified by the fact that they didn't grow up with video games and often would consider themselves outside the market of game players. These players, who ranged from their 50s upwards, had a primary reaction to an invitation to play some games of "that's not for me, but I'll try it."

Over a few weeks in late spring we organized a series of play sessions with some willing older participants. As with our family gamers sessions, we weren't sure what would result, but again by the end of each day, the author had notes as long as his arm and not a few cups and dishes to wash up.

From these various bits and observations, we have distilled another list of what this group most wanted out of their video games.

1. Repeat Tutorials

Many of our players took a little longer than average to get to grips with the basics of the game mechanics. Tutorials often skimmed over some key issues and assumed a certain level of pre-existing knowledge.

However, unlike more familiar players who would get frustrated and skip these sections, our older gamers wanted the opportunity to repeat the training sessions until they were sure they had understood. Only then were they happy to proceed onto the game proper.

Surprisingly Madden 08 on the Wii scored particularly well in this department. Not only did it provide well-paced introductions to each control method, but you could also jump back to a practice session for the different motions during the game.

2. Printed Manuals

Touching again on comprehension, a related request was for better printed materials to explain the game premise and controls. Almost all the games on test only sported a limited pamphlet. Once you take into account the marketing and multi-language material, this often only amounted to three or four pages of prose.

It's easy to assume that gamers aren't interested in reading physical training material. But this group of players made it clear that they very much preferred reading on paper rather than the screen.

"Why not have a 'quick start' guide like I got with my phone?" wondered Fred, one of our gamers. "And why can't I have a proper instruction manual?" chimed in his other half. Our silver gamers largely agreed that to be able to read though a rudimentary manual before putting the disc would greatly reduce how intimidating the whole experience is perceived to be.

There was a surprise winner in this department - GTA IV! Although we didn't get very far into the game itself, everyone really appreciated having a printed map. One of our younger Silver Gamers commented that he remembered getting great materials with Elite on the BBC Micro, and how that really contributed to the whole experience for him.

"Holding a flight guide and keyboard layout made me feel like I was really in the game. I thought modern games would provide more of these things rather than less. It's a shame really."

3. In-Game Readability

Although they were wary of being stereotyped, many participants found that the text size, even on our larger High Definition screens, was often hard to read.

In fact some seemed to prefer the Standard Definition output that didn't shrink the text so much, even if it wasn't as sharp.

This combined with the limited amount of time some games provided to read the text to draw some of our most exasperated reactions.

"Wait, what did that say again?" was a common refrain. GTA IV was a prime offender here, with its help text quickly disappearing without any user interaction.

"Find Mii" on Wii Play, however, scored well, as you could bring up the instructions by holding the B button on the Wii remote. It also provided large text on a highly contrasted background, both aspects appreciated by this group of gamers.

Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

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Jonathan Teske
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Interesting article. Its less telling and more self-evident (at least from my hardcore-gaming perspective). There is certainly a key line in the last paragraph, that there should be a "wider range of games", which does not mean "dumb down games". A lot of the problems that developers run into is dumbing down to the masses rather than creating different play styles or creating a whole new gaming experience. Nintendo does a good job of this, as does EA's new All Play system.

This is a tricky line to stand on. At one point, I welcome more players to join in on this new evolution of media and entertainment, but at the same time, I fear the video games industry will go the way of Hollywood and start creating WAY too many stupid mass appeal content. Lets hope not...

Bart Stewart
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Good article.

A New York Times article from September 11, 2007, (
7249600&en=437b4c69f257fa39&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss) made some related points about what older people bring to online usage:

* According to Nielsen/NetRatings, the number of Internet users who are older than 55 is roughly the same as those who are aged 18 to 34.

* Venture capitalist Paul Kedrosky observed that older people tend to be "stickier" than younger people. Once they subscribe to a service, they tend to retain that service longer.

* Consultant Susan Ayers Walker noted that older people have more money, and suggested that they are more attentive to advertising.

From these points, and from the observations in Andy Robertson's article, a casual persistent world game that offered features appealing to older people could be particularly effective. A MMORPG designed to be playable in short sessions over a long time, and that was wrapped around some enjoyable activity (i.e., probably something other than slaughtering hordes of NPCs for their loot and XP) might be worth exploring.

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Wonderful article, a lot of interesting information about atypical gamer customers.

Anders Hojsted
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I've been working on the business concept that caters to many of the requisites of the Silver Gamers; especially the trans-generation-playing. I'll have to verify the findings in this article, - but if they're verified, I'll have to change the game design a lot. As Jonathan notes, you can't just "dumb down" an existing game, - you have to design a whole new experience from scratch and take the target audience into account from start. Assumption is the mother of all mistakes and if you assume you know your market without examining it, you're bound to fail.

BTW: We're looking for venture capital; - contact me for business plan.



John Petersen
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I'm 40 yrs old and have 2 step grandchildren.

This is what I'd like to see in an MMO hunting game... It's incomplete, but I'm sure you'll get the idea

Here's a few of the basics of "My Mountain" MMO hunting game.

It's an economic hunting game.

"My Mountain" is an individual mountain that can be purchased in-game by hunters where they can privately hunt, guide, live, and make a living. ( would best be played in scrolling first person views.)

Players can eventually hunt their way to buying a "My Mountain" and build it from a simple hunting campsite to a full blown hunting lodge. Making an enormous fortune and earn the fame and respect of trying to become one of the best and reliable hunting lodges for hunting everything from rats to world record size trophies.

Only players with permission from the mountain owner are allowed to hunt on someone elses mountain. (Finding the owner can be a task until he/she establishes a certain level of reknown)

Other hunters may get permission from the "My Mountain owner" to hunt freely on that owners mountain without being guided, but may or may not be required to pay an in-game fee to do so. (That's up to the owner of the mountain.)

To guide other hunters, the owner of the mountain must have traversed all area's of the mountain first. And can only guide hunts of animals they have taken "5" or more of. (A map will reveal the area/s that have been traversed and those that have not and a list of animals that can be guide hunted will be displayed)... Players may also obtain permission to guide their own hunts on anothers mountain.

To be guided on a "My Mountain" hunt by either a mountain owner or a player who has permission to guide a hunt on that particular mountain, other hunters must obtain permission from the mountains owner. The guide of the mountain can only guide hunts they are skilled enough to lead. For a guide to be eligible to guide species specific hunts on anothers mountain, they must have harvested at least half the required species specific animals that the owner of the mountain is required to have harvested to guide. The required amount of species may have been harvested elsewhere.

"My Mountain" has all the animals and evironmental elements needed to support the animals for it's region. Such as rivers lakes, dense forest, sparse locations, caves etc.

The more the owner feeds the animals on "My Mountain" the larger they can get. Making each players mountain unique in how much they put into it... If a player decides they want to make their hawgs bigger, they must use hawg feed, same goes with all the other animals, each species has their own feed.

"My Mountain" owners will have to buy feeders and feed to feed the animals on their mountain. The feeders need to be placed by hand... The owner can set the feeders and fill them themselves, or hire players to do it... or hire an NPC to do it. Owners may also trade a day or weekend of hunting on their mountain for filling and/or placing the feeders, remote camera's and area informational devices that send valuable information about each feeder, the amount of feed in the feeder, digital camera's and photo's or video of each area that has a camera installed and operational, and the weather in that particular area.... If a player wants to trade items or weapons or services for the right to hunt on a specific mountain owners land, that can be done too..

Lodgeing, once it's built to a certain degree or level of lodge can be decorated and offer various items and services for buying, selling, renting and trading. Lodges start out a simple campsite and eventually are built into a full fledged multi faceted and beautiful hunting lodges, if so desired.

Different levels of lodges will afford the mountain owners the abilty to hold various types of hunts with vehicles that eventually leads to hunting from helicopters. (Not necessary, but very very cool)

Players earn enough money via hunts and guideing hunts before they can afford to purchase a mountain.

"My Mountain" owners can earn money with all the ways mentioned above, and possible in-game magazine, television contracts, and high brow hunters searching for the ultimate treatment in hunting.

Lodges and guides can be rated by in-game NPC's, in-game websites, tv, magazines and other players. Only players who have actually hunted on the property may rate that property. (If a customer of the owner get's a trophy animal, the player cannot rate the experience less than a 5 of 10. This will cut down on other players wrongfully rating the experience to drive up their own rankings. )

All players stats are recorded in real life via leaderboards, websites, etc.

Players may communicate, advertise services, and hunt with each other via MMO, in-game message boards etc.

It may be possible to form hunting lodge partnerships between real players and NPC's, and real players with real players if the "My Mountain Owner" wants to.

Players will not be able to fire weapons on a mountain they do not have permission to hunt on. (If animal attacks are part of the game, the hunter/s seeking the Mountain owner may protect themselves.)

If a player kills an animal they do not have permission to take, they have to pay the owner of the mountain 10X's it's worth and do not get to keep the animal (does not apply to attacking animals)... After a third wrongful kill, the player is is expelled from the property and must wait a designated amount of real time before they are allowed to return, provided the mountain owner approves. The mountain owner will know before approving any permissions if any hunter hunting their mountain has taken the wrong animals on their mountain and others mountains and which animals and the specs of each of those animals.

Animals will reproduce at a set amount but can be influenced to reproduce slower or faster depending on how the owner of the mountain controls the population of each individual species... The owner of the mountain is not in total control of the population, they can only influence it a little at a time.

Has lot's of potential for real world hunting gear developers, manufacturers, and distributors in-game advertising. (Sponsors)

That's it in a nutshell, the rest would need a greenlight for future development. (As if you couldn't figure the rest out...LOL)

Many thanks