Grey Gamers Unite!

Introduction

When you are new to something it can be very daunting; there seems to be so much to learn, resources can be hard to find and use, help is often focused towards more advanced users. What’s needed is a gentle introduction with a specific focus for the type of questions you are likely to have and the problems you will encounter. As few assumptions as possible should be made about the current knowledge and skill level of those involved. I believe there is a lack of resources for the older person who has decided to try computer gaming.

A Website and Community

I propose the creation of a website for older gamers where they can:

  • Ask for help without fear that what they are asking is considered foolish or that they will be ridiculed.
  • Learn the best way to play certain games and particular strategies for different situations.
  • Learn how to create content via a planned series of easy to use and well-written tutorials.
  • Swap and share their gaming-related stories and experiences.
  • Read, and hopefully write, articles, reviews, commentaries from their perspective.
  • View and update a Gaming Glossary, that will, amongst other things, help to demystify the gaming world.
  • Find a list of relevant and useful resources.

The website should be a place where new gamers are introduced to gaming and its pleasures & benefits in a friendly manner.

However

One very important aspect about the Internet, especially gaming, is that it allows people of all ages and cultures to communicate without the common barriers of preconception that normally filter our social interaction.

Whilst I truly believe that a website and community for Grey Gamers is needed (and will eventually happen, with or without my help) it should be seen as part stepping-stone and part home. It should be the beginning of the gaming journey NOT only the destination. Don’t misunderstand me, I want visitors to return often but I also want to give them the confidence to go out into the virtual gaming world.

Other Sites?

There are already a few sites that claim they are for the older gamer but upon closer inspection that means over 25! Now, with all due respect to the Webmasters, 26 years old isn’t exactly old! However the term “old” often has negative connotations which is why from now on I will use the term “Grey Gamer” or GG.

General Background

Within the U.K., and maybe other English-speaking countries, one definition of the word “grey” specifically relates to people who have retired. That’s 60 years old for women and 65 for men. As the health, wealth and longevity of the nation increases so does the opportunities for these people. The “grey pound” refers to the spending power of retired people and products & services have been appearing for a long time targeted towards them.

I believe that in general the gaming community, especially regarding content creation, doesn’t make enough effort to attract and integrate the Grey Gamer. The idea of playing online or getting help must seen quite daunting to those not only new to computers but also new to gaming.

For the purposes of this discussion a Grey Gamer is somebody over 40 (me!), although I don’t really want to restrict the age in such an explicit manner. I suggest focusing the site’s content towards a clear and simple presentation style and let the visitors decide if they like it or not, irrespective of their age.

Specific Background

I’ve been thinking about this concept for sometime and in January I was very close to registering the domain name greygamers DOT com. At the time it was available and my idea was to setup a simple portal site and slowly get people interested. Due to other gaming commitments I decided to wait. Unfortunately not long after, around February, the domain and some derivatives were registered. As I type this there is no site available on the domain and it may not be related in any way to playing computer games.

I’ve also been thinking about the poor quality of tutorials available for learning how to create content, specifically maps. Then I read a comment by A.I. here on PlanetPhillip that said “and have regretted to have not learned how to map!”. It made me think that there may be plenty of middle-aged mappers but how many over 60? Probably not many, and definitely fewer who didn’t learn to map until they reached 60 or over! I see no reason why Grey Gamers shouldn’t be given the opportunity to learn to create content. On the contrary, there are many reasons why a specific effort should be made to teach them.

What’s So Different About Grey Gamers?

There’s nothing different about the people themselves it’s their circumstances that are different. Unlike the younger generation that have grown up with Computers, the Internet and games, Grey Gamers have had little or no chance to use these “wonders of modern science”!

Often Grey Gamers are faced with a frosty glass wall – maybe they can see what is going on behind the wall but they can’t work out the details.
Everything I have learnt about gaming and the Internet was self-taught, but more importantly is was a fight. Finding help that was clearly written and easy to understand is still a problem. There’s not enough empathy for new learners. Just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean you are not intelligent.

Most people are given lots of opportunity to interact with computers but not so the Grey Gamer. They have to take that opportunity themselves. Imagine for a moment a person who has never used a computer before and who sees somebody playing Half-Life 2 and thinks. “WOW, that looks like a lot of fun, I want to try”. Where would they even start to look for information? A younger relative perhaps, maybe visit a shop. I wonder how many want to try but are too afraid to ask?
Unlike other sections of society the Grey Gamer is not surrounded by the technology in the same way. Sure, banks use them, cars use them and thousands of things have a computer in them, but the GG doesn’t use a PC for their job and the gaming scene isn’t exactly part of their culture. Of course there are exceptions but I am talking about the general population of a first world country.
What I’m trying to say is that when something isn’t part of your life it can be hard to understand and use it.

One Step Further

Taking the idea of a website for Grey Gamers one step further I propose the creation of a special section within the site (Or separate website) with the clear objective of creating a “Grey Gamers Guide to Content Creation”. This means starting right at the beginning and explaining and clarifying basic concepts involved BEFORE even thinking about using the applications. “My First Room” should probably be the fourth or fifth lesson NOT the first.
I have enormous respect for anybody who can create maps and other content but I believe that the older gamer may have life experiences or ideas that would help in creating this content. They don’t lack imagination or creativity, just the technical skill of using the applications involved.

Together

I envisage that this would be a joint learning adventure. Not a place where a few people write some tutorials and other just read them. I’m not expecting experts to appear out of nowhere and suddenly volunteer to create the content. We should agree to do it together. We would read and use the current tutorials and then begin to create our own. There must be many veteran educators and authors out there that would relish the chance to use their experience and combine it with their new hobby.
We would use community-based applications, which would allow everybody to contribute. Of course it would need an Editor-In-Chief to ensure some consistency and overall control.

Some Specific Ideas

Here some ideas related to both the content creation section and the website in general.

  • Contributor Profiles:
    I think it’s important for visitors to see that the website and its content was created by people like themselves. A simple photo (optional but preferred) and a brief bio can go a long way to encouraging others to join the project.
  • A Wiki Glossary:
    Admittedly we have a small learning curve with using a Wiki but this particular skill will be valuable in general to Internet use, not just to this website. (If you are not sure what a Wiki is then I suggest you read this: Wikipedia entry on Wiki. (Is that like having a video on how to use a VCR?))
  • Video Tutorials:
    These can really help speed-up the learning process. The bad news is that they take a lot of work to produce properly.
  • Gameplay Tutorials:
    This is something I really feel is lacking at the moment. There seems to be little advice for new players on how to actually play a game. I’m sure there are some gameplay tactics (both SP and MP) that experienced players take for granted but are rarely explained to beginners. Even things like secondary firing modes could be better explained.
    A specific example I remember was the boss in Return to Castle Wolfenstein. I won’t spoil it for players who haven’t played that particular game but I spent a long time trying to kill him, only to find a simple technique made it both easy and fun.
  • Set Courses and Dates:
    Just like many other learning centres there would be set courses and dates, in essence term times. This would allow for better structure and control of the content being discussed and taught. There could even be Open Days and similar promotions.
  • Online Tutorials:
    Here, I’m thinking about starting a co-op game and getting beginners to join. The Leader/Instructor would explain the session’s activity, provide a demonstration and them allow the students to practise in controlled circumstances. This could be done via specially designed maps (like training courses) or just in open play, depending on the skill being taught. It would simply be a virtual classroom. Again, as with other types of learning situations, certain prerequisite sessions would have to be completed first E.G. “CO-OP Games 101”.
  • Which Engine and/or Game:
    I think it would be unrealistic to try and cover all engines and games. That’s not to say the website can’t have information, advice, reviews etc about them but the tutorials and content creation should be focused towards one game (maybe two). It seems to me that there is a choice of four serious engine contenders: Source, Unreal 3, Doom3/Quake 4 and Cry Engine 2. This isn’t the time or the place to discuss the merits of each but I feel that contact with the developer should be made to see what support can be given. It’s clear to me that this is a seriously neglected area of the market and could in the future provide a important income for the game/engine developers. It may be interesting to see which one are forward-thinking enough to deserve our support.
  • Design:
    I’m not talking about the patronising concept of using primary colours and extra large font sizes but a simple acceptance that most websites (including PlanetPhillip) are guilty of trying to present too much information on each page in an effort to make the site seem active and full of content. We just need to consider things from a new visitor’s point of view. If we were to list all the information on a portal-type website I think we would see how daunting that can be for somebody new. What we probably need is a clean interface with easy to navigate menus and pages that presents the minimum information required not the maximum. Think Google! By that I mean their interface rarely needs explaining. The purpose is clear and access to the more detailed features is only a few clicks away.
  • My Bias:
    Everything I have written has been from the perspective of somebody interested in FPS games. That doesn’t mean the site should only cover these types of games, it just means I’ve only thought about it from that perspective. The clearest example is the Engine discussion above.
Action Not Just Words

I’ve made both general and specific proposals BUT I can’t and won’t try to start this project on my own. I have too many other gaming commitments to do a good job. That’s the main reason for not registering the domain name in January; I didn’t feel I could do the project justice. So, what’s changed you ask. Nothing, except that this is a call for other liked-minded people. I’m prepared to help start and guide the project but feel it would benefit from others taking over.

Let me be clear – I don’t expect this to be an easy or short-term project. This will require a lot of effort and commitment from all those involved but the potential result would be worth it.

If anybody is interested in working on this project, in whatever capacity, please either post a comment here or send me an email. If you are a Grey Gamer with experiences and skills to share or just interested in supporting a newly developing community, please try and find some time to become involved. This is you chance to give something back.

What you can do. If you think it’s a good idea then discuss it with your friends, both real and virtual, post the idea on any forums or news sites where you feel their visitors would be interested, (even if they are not game related), do some research of your own and find some useful resources, start looking at websites and games from a new perspective – of somebody new to gaming.

In this case I’m not going to be pimping this idea. I’ve done that in the past and got abused for it. It’s partly up to you whether this idea succeeds or fails.

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20 Comments

  1. dufferx

    Good idea and well thought out. A little late for me as I have been gaming since the Commodore 64 days and will be streaking past my 73rd birthday in August.

  2. Migandi

    I am a “going greyer gamer” (going greyer all the time)
    The problem I find is my seriously lacking attention span, I started Oblivion and Fable and also Thief 3 and Doom 3 in the past months only completing so many levels of each then getting bored and looking for something else!

    Is it just me or the games themselves?

  3. Dufferx, firstly congratulations on you Agugust birthday. Whilst it might be too late for you, think of all the people who could benefit from your experience. You sound like the perfect candidate for a founding member!

    Migandi, I love the addition of “going”. I fit that category too. I’d like to think it was the games but I think it’s us. I bought SiN Emergence and have played about ten minutes and to be honest I can’t muster the enthusiasm to play any more.

  4. dougjp

    Very well thought out and presented, Phillip, and I agree there is a need. Also grey gamers are more likely to be interested in Single Player due to generally slower reaction times, less time willing to be spent in each gaming session before wanting a break, and the concentration factor.

    My initial reaction is; it looks like a massive project, almost commercial in scope, and where would the audience for it be “located” in the virtual world. It wouldn’t be the older ones amongst us, we are already playing. It probably wouldn’t be our real world friends, if we introduce them to gaming then by default we automatically become their personal one on one setup and training source for basic playing and add-on maps/mods.

    Thinking about the audience, who would they be, who is likely to be able to get to them and/or how would they find the sources of information.

    Perhaps there are two categories, those who don’t have computers or old gaming-inept ones used for e-mail mostly, and those who are computer literate but in a business sense. Retirement in North America, by the way, is on paper 65 for both men and women, however ruthless continuous downsizing makes that early retirement at 55 or so, more often than not.

    The former category could be reached by computer companies, the latter by common huge gaming sites easily found, like Gamespot. And both categories might be reached by gaming companies but only once the decision had been, or was about to, be made to buy a specific game.

    So I’m thinking, to champion this and provide much of the resources, should one or more of these be approached? Just my 2 cents worth 🙂

  5. el_espaniol

    Just I’m an oldie guy but not less funny when I found a good game to play…! Great insights as usual Phil…!

  6. Carolyn

    Hi Phillip,
    You know me…I’ve been hanging out here for a long time. I turn 59 in July and I have been playing Half Life for a long time now. It’s my game of choice. I am a double rarity…older woman gamer. Some of my children are grown and have children of their own. I stand pretty hard against the stereotypes of ageing. It’s not easy, but I just want to live my life and do the things I like regardless of who thinks it’s age appropriate or not. You will catch me at the next Marilyn Manson concert too. Vital to retaining full cognition to the end of one’s life is learning new skills. It has to be something hard, and something totally new, so as to forge new neural connections. We have to keep building new neural networks our whole lives, else we ossify. I took up FPS gaming for a way to accomplish that while having fun. I push gaming all the time with my peers, but the biggest problem they face is feeling foolish for not staying within the socially approved activities of their age group. It is getting better though. I still have not met another woman gamer my age who plays FPS games. It’s lonely out here!

  7. dufferx

    A big hooray for Carolyn!

  8. migandi

    yeah for grey gamers
    i get looked at funny when I show as much interest as kidz in games.
    i like the exploration of them mainly, whats round that next corner or down that dungeon, its the thrill of it, if you can detatch yourself from reality and put yourself within your mind then its good escapism, just like a good book or movie but with a game you are taking part in the adventure.

    “i dont want escapism I just want to escape!

  9. AI

    Well I think I need to get my 2 cents in here !! In reponse to my quoted comment that Phillip put in the above artical, It’s NOT that I haven’t tried mapping/ect, I found out early on that I don’t have any artistic ability, like my kids do (all grown up and gone)so I gave it up! I can live with that! Oh BTW the caption for Alberts pic at the top of this artical should read “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried any thing new” That comes from a pic of him that hangs on my apt wall!! I’m 60 and getting greyer (haha) and it doesn’t matter matter to me what younger folks think about my game play, I guess if they don’t like it, TOO BAD!! I was not aware there are others of our age group that enjoyed gamming like I do, both men and women I applaude you all!!! To Carolyn, Thanks for sharing your views, I’m sure you are not alone! (kinda sounds like from the X-files)

  10. migandi

    the caption for the top picture should read:
    “I play games 24/7 and it has no effect on me!”

  11. http://www.graygamers.com/

    “This site will be dedicated to the men and women over 50 who play computer online games.”

    Seems that somebody else had the same Idea!

  12. GanjaStar

    I feel so young at 21 now, seening all you gray gamers! I also find it reassuring that I will not be a weirdo when I get older and still play games. I’m glad we are breaking out of the mean conformity stereotypes, since gaming is a very modern and satifying form of entertainment. Game on till the last day all of you!

    I also want to commend Carolyn for realizing life is only one, and there is no reason to get caught up in social roleplaying and get depressed more and more as you age. The world has become an evil place towards the older, and I sure am glad to see you guys kicking back and struggling!

  13. AI

    Have NO fear GanjaStar, you will be a gray gamer yourself –> someday!! Geez both my kids are much older than you, 33 & 36!!!! they play this stuff with their own kids now!! About feeling like a weirdo, don’t give it a second thought!! I’ve been called worse by better!! Like Jack Benney used to say “I’m 39 and holding”!! So to act my age “NOT”!

  14. Oh, please do. And include HL2/steamless hacks so I can play HL2 without that annoying pile of STEAMing poo.

  15. And include HL2/steamless hacks so I can play HL2 without that annoying pile of STEAMing poo.

    PlanetPhillip doesn’t endorse the use of illegal hacks. However, I do feel for you because I’m not a fin of the current Steam implementation.

  16. And include HL2/steamless hacks so I can play HL2 without that annoying pile of STEAMing poo.
    PlanetPhillip doesn’t endorse the use of illegal hacks. However, I do feel for you because I’m not a fin of the current Steam implementation.

    That’s part of the reason I’ve decided to uninstall HL2 for now. I tried a few I found via Google searches, but they were at best unsuccessful. And until either Valve/Steam pull their collective heads out of their collective orifices, or someone comes up with a method of playing that allows me to play offline without needing an Internet connection, it will remain uninstalled. I’ve got Doom3, and a few other FPS games to play.

    1. And until either Valve/Steam pull their collective heads out of their collective orifices, or someone comes up with a method of playing that allows me to play offline without needing an Internet connection

      First off, Well put and I could not agree more!..lol Secondly You can’t play off line? I do that all the time..So that’s odd. When I fire up steam and there is no connection it asks me if I want to go into “offline mode”.. I click “yes” when there isn’t one around and play.. Life on the road, you often find yourself in places where there is no wifi or connection or your mobile service has a dead spot.. I usually just find some thing else to do. But I can play any steam game and any of the mods in Off Line Mode with no problems.

  17. piledriver

    Going slightly off topic but I agree with Old Scratch re “online connection required” for HL2.

    And Phillip, I reckon the above comments prove you dont need a seperate site for senior shooters. This site caters for all already.
    The posts for each mod show that players of any age and ability can and do already exchange questions and comments.
    Extensive tips and links on mapping for all abilities, regardless of age, are already available.
    Are there really that few grey gamers? Probably in the FPS genre, but I know plenty of 80+ active minds who play a mean rack in online scrabble!
    On a more serious note, some of those scrabble players I know have used a real gun with real bullets to kill real people and would rather forget it. Discussing this with them, it appears there is not so much need for that blast of adrenaline some younger players crave. The general opinion is that a calmer mental and intellectual challenge is preferred. It is not the computer that is unpopular in this respect, on the contrary, it is just the genre.

    Great topic though! It was great to hear that I am merely a young’un aged 50!

  18. Apparently, this is a site frequented by olde fartes, given the comments in this topic. Hell, I’ve got enough grey to paint a battleship, and I’m *only* older’n Jesus and younger’n dirt!! :-OI’m guessing at this point that it’ll always come down to preference, some people (like me) love the ability to sit in a chair and shoot to our heart’s content; others (like my wife), can’t stand to play video games, and jsut flat won’t do it, preferring to play traditional games and reading or movie watching; and the last ones who prefer to do it for real.

    Another thought on “grey gamers”: how many of those who might become gamers, given the chance (or are because they use console systems instead of PCs), cannot because the intricacies of PC usage is beyond their abilities (doubtful) or patience (more likely–we olde fartes get impatient with stuff that doesn’t work, guess because we don’t have much time left).

  19. I honestly thought I was one of very few middle aged kids that play video games..Suddenly I no longer feel so alone!…lol

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