When you hear the word “social gamer,” do you immediately picture a pimply-faced teenager shouting into a tiny microphone attached to his headset, while staring intensely at a computer screen? Well, you might want to think again after you hear the results from recent studies on social gaming and Internet use.
The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project revealed that social networking sites nearly doubled in usage among people ages 50 and older since last year, and has grown 100% among people ages 65 and older. Surprisingly, usage among these older groups is growing at a faster pace than younger generations.
Even more surprising is that 46 percent of social gamers are at least 50 years old and dominated by women, according to the 2010 Popcap Social Gaming Research.
“This study establishes social games as a fast-growing and quickly maturing pastime for an enormous portion of the population,” said Robin Boyar of Thinktank Research. “With more than 80 percent of social gamers stating that playing social games strengthens their relationship with friends, family and colleagues, social gaming reinforces the core appeal of social networks.”
Older adults are paving the way for the next generation social gaming sites. They enjoy playing multi-player games in real-time, making new friends and winning prizes on sites like Winster.com.
Social media sites have been a long time favorite among the younger generations, but now older adults are taking a deep interest and companies are starting to take notice on the demand and coming up with niche sites specifically to address their social needs.
“I’m in a wheelchair and pretty much homebound,” said Gail Davis, a 55-year-old from Chattanooga, Tennessee. “I used to be so depressed and lonely until I discovered online game sites that let me play with real people at the same time. Social game sites have been a lifesaver for me, so many friends and so much fun!”
When Dennis Ah Yo, a 59-year-old San Jose resident, began fighting colon cancer, the emotional isolation of being homebound was as tough as the physical hardships of chemotherapy. Ah Yo found an emotional “lifesaver” through social gaming because it was his only connection to the outside world.
“I could find somebody online and just talk while we were playing games, and simply not be lonely anymore,” Ah Yo said. “I found that filling a void for me.”
Many older adults have discovered a new way to form rewarding relationships online.
Popularity of social games among the fifty-plus population has taken off for a variety of reasons:
- Connecting with old and new friends
- Offers face-to-face simulation of social activity for people with limited mobility
- Games provide mental stimulation that improves health
- Social games offer real-time interaction for those seeking companionship
- Collaborative games promote positive interaction that induce feelings of happiness
- Social Networking sites are designed so that EVERYONE can easily create a profile and start connecting with others immediately
- Bridges generational gap by providing a unique platform where parents, teenagers, grandparents, friends and neighbors regularly communicate
- People with chronic disease are more likely to seek support online
For these reasons and more, social gaming sites will continue to gain rampant popularity among the fifty-plus population. Baby boomers and seniors are wired and embracing technology at full speed now more than ever.
About the Author:
Michelle Kaplan, co-founder of Winster.com, a social gaming site geared toward older adults who enjoy playing online games, developing meaningful friendships and winning real prizes. Winster games strengthen social networks and mental stimulation while promoting positive social interaction within a safe and friendly environment.