Audiences & Experiences — Week 7 (Viewing / Reviewing)
This week on the Audiences & Experiences unit, we were tasked with reading through a few readings, as well as either playing, or having someone we know over the age of 55 play a game from a selection of games.
Work & Leisure
The first text for this week was “Work and Leisure”, a short pdf about the older generations (who were the first to really experience video games) and how they are essentially becoming a new market for the gaming industry, being the first to play games at that age group. This reading was very short, so I’m not too sure what toad, but I agree with the writer of this that it’s a group that would require a lot more research to be had for, and will gradually take up a larger percentage of the audience of video games over time as the current generation ages and fills out this space.
I’m very curious at what amount the player count of video games as a whole will level off, as once the older age ranges have filled out, there’ll probably be an overall peak at some point once the aging population has reached the eldest people that are currently alive. Making games accessible I think is a key part of this, but I feel that to a degree as more people will have grown up with games over time, older people will be far more used to “traditional” game mechanics such as the control schemes of popular genres like the typical first person control scheme (WASD + Mouse or joystick controls).
Video Games and Other Online Activities may improve Health in Ageing
The second reading for this week was an article from Frontiers in medicine, “Video Games and Other Online Activities may improve Health in Ageing”. This paper proposes that:
“By exposing ourselves to informative, co-interactive digital platforms which are defined by a variety of “Information-that-requires-action in time and on demand,” we are subjected to beneficial positive stress which upregulates neuronal function.”
The paper cites a lot of sources that provide evidence for video games having beneficial cognitive effects in older adults (Phew.), mainly improving reaction time, memory, and attention span, as well as a few other cognitive functions such as multitasking.
The most interesting claim here to me is that it appears to have a positive effect on some cognitive diseases such as dementia, through what they have called a “hormetic mechanism”, which are mental activities that are “challenging but do-able” to provoke rather than annoy the player. This makes a lot of sense to me, but is quite vague — A lot of kinds of activities in games can be considered “provoking”, so I’m curious if any specific kind of game might enable this kind of health benefit more than others, as I imagine different kinds of games might cause activity in different areas of the brain.
The paper then goes on to talk about forms of stimulation through video games, including online communities that practice in competitive and co-operative settings (This is actually something I do personally! — I play in a 10-person group semi-competitively at games on occasion just for entertainment purposes), cognitive impacts of the internet as a whole, and naturally some of the negative impacts on physical health that can be caused by excessive use of the internet and gaming as a whole. I would be interested to see the long term results of impacts of a mixture of both kinds of activities on both cognitive and physical health, as from what they mention here it seems that there’s not a large amount of studies on this yet due to the relatively new nature of games as a platform.
Older adults’ digital gameplay, social capital, social connectedness, and civic participation
The final reading for this week was an article from GameStudies.org that investigates “the relationship between older adults’ digital game-playing behavious and with their social capital, social connectedness, and civic participation”. Compared to the other sources from this week, this one provided a lot more in depth information about the topic, citing studies where things like social connectedness were measured using a scale that was previously developed by other researchers, and comparing those to other methods of measuring such things.
I’m curious about how exactly this is measured, but I trust that the researchers that he is citing know what they’re talking about when measuring these (because I’d have no idea where to start with it).
Some of the hypotheses testing results went a bit over my head, as there’s a fair amount of math there, but they describe what the data actually means fairly well. They examine the relationship between playing alone as well as with different amounts people and with online friends. It’s good that this source acknowledges the limitations of their studies and sources especially, as it’s something I’ve not seen too much of in these kinds of articles — as they state, as with any cross-sectional survey, results are correlational and shouldn’t be interpreted as causal relationships.
The conclusion of this article summarises this well in that while the data they provided shows that games can improve cognitive abilities later into life, they don’t tend to examine the side effects with regards to social outcomes, and this definitely fills that void to some degree.
Game Task — Tiny Wings
The game I decided to play, and have a family member play for the task we were assigned from the list was “Tiny Wings”. I thought this would be a fun one to try again as it’s one I have fond memories of playing way back in school on my old iPod. It was probably one of my earliest experiences with a mobile game. It’s a pretty simple physics based game (I guess I could call it that? The main focus is on using the gravity of the character to create momentum by landing at the right angles).
I don’t have any particularly elderly people in my household, so I had a go at the game myself, and had my parents (who are in their fifties) have a brief go at it. Of the two, my dad has some experience with older titles such as the sonic games (He still has one of his SAGA consoles from his childhood), so he understands the basics of simple games to some degree, and my mother sort of does too by extension of this.
Something I always notice when seeing older or younger players of games play even simple games is seeing how they often struggle with things on a mechanical level such as basic movement controls (Especially older people with first person games, I’ve noticed — they tend to struggle to manipulate player movement and camera rotation simultaneously, and this is something I feel younger players take for granted. It’s actually quite hard for someone that’s new to gaming). They didn’t struggle all that much with tiny wings, as it’s fairly simple mechanically, and doesn’t require much in the way of input, though I found that I managed to get a much further distance than they did even though they found this easier than most games they played.