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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.