Kotaku weekend editor Owen Good has a terrific and thought-provoking article worthy of discussion: he’s currently acting as a live-in caregiver for his 86-year old grandfather, a WWII vet and Harvard MBA who’s been asking him recently about video games in general. Owen asks the Kotaku crowd how best to introduce a man who’s never once experienced one – but is genuinely interested – to the medium we all love.
So what’s the answer? The comments on Kotaku’s site are all over the place, ranging from the absurd to the thoughtful, but I find myself wondering if there’s a more sensitive and valuable way to do this. Good is, after all, staying with his grandpa because the gent needs some additional attention and care, and many studies have shown that video games are a terrific mechanism for engaging the elderly on a variety of levels.
Seriously: games require physical precision that, while frustrating to newcomers, have been shown to increase dexterity and even reduce the pain of arthritis and other debilitating diseases.
Many games are mentally challenging, requiring careful consideration of many facts and contemplation of solutions, a great way to keep the brain engaged and nice variety from the usual choice, that being crossword puzzles.
Games can also offer rich and immersive stories, which people of all ages seek out. Anyone who loves a great novel or complex movie could easily get lost in a terrific narrative video game, and would love discussing the story and experience with someone else who’s played it.
Finally, games offer an escape from what I personally consider a fairly crappy existence regardless of age. The opportunity to live a life of adventure in a strange and wonderful new land filled with danger and intrigue would appeal to anybody, not just the elderly. But it might be of special value to mature players, who’ve experienced so much of this life and may be genuinely transported by the opportunity to experience another so close up.
You guys are smart, what’s your vote? How should Owen introduce his grandpa to this medium? It’s a sensitive and complex topic that bears some discussion. Personally? My vote is Something Bethesda – Morrowind, Oblivion, or Fallout 3. Grandpa Good seems like he’s a pretty sharp old guy, easily able to handle the complexities of such games, while the decidedly out-of-this-world worlds that they offer should be very intriguing to him. Discuss!