Are you designing games for seniors?

A conversation on a walk to Whole Foods:

ME: . . . So me and Greek John are kicking around ways to game with non-gamers.
GIRLFRIEND: Yes, your Outreach to Investment Bankers idea. It's silly.
ME: It's not so silly.
GIRLFRIEND: You are never going to have a truck driving around New York.
ME: We could write a grant!
GIRLFRIEND: Are you going to have Gandalf parallel park for you?
ME: . . . The truck is not the important thing. Right now we're trying to think of venues were we'd meet lots of interested non-gamers.
GIRLFRIEND: What about senior centers?
ME: ? ? ?
GIRLFRIEND: They're playing Wii now. And the ones at Lyman's Orchard were playing Apples to Apples. So maybe they'd like to play your kind of games.
ME: . . .
GIRLFRIEND: You could volunteer, they would like the company. You could go on family visit days and teach them something to do with their grandkids.
ME: ! ! !
GIRLFRIEND: You better give me credit when you talk about this on the Internet.

There you have it.

Setting aside whether this would ever actually happen - I'd like to think it would, but can't guarantee this would come to pass - it strikes me that all Story Games are pretty much designed for people age 25-35. What would a genuinely all-ages Story Game look like?

Comments

  • edited August 2009
    I don't know what an appropriate game would be, but I would be down for some volunteer work at a senior center. I think that's a great idea. Especially since I love the idea of playing with and being exposed to as many different kinds of people as possible.

    I love this idea!
  • My very first post at the Forge was about this very idea. I never got around to it, but I still think it's a potentially great idea. I wonder whether a game like Danger Patrol, based on a retro view of the future, might hold a wide appeal among those who were children during the space craze.
  • This is the part where I mention that I am mildly phobic around old people.
  • I guess I have to say that it depends on the seniors, James, cause lumping them all together is like lumping all roleplayers together. Even just physically seniors are going to exhibit a wide range of differences. Many are in senior centers because they have a hard time taking care of themselves. They suffer from degraded manual dexterity (some folks hands get very shakey in old age), poor eyesight and hearing, and so on. So it's not just subject matter of a game that's an issue. Be prepared to be very patient, understanding, and helpful without treating anybody like a small child.

    As for subject matter, maybe centered around things that were popular or newsworthy when the seniors were 25-35? That's just a shot in the dark. For all I know Panty Explosion would be a big hit down at the senior center.

    Anway, I fully endorse and applaud such an endeavor. Even considering doing this makes you a much nicer person than I am. ;)
  • edited August 2009
    OK, if you're grant-hungry, using mentally stimulating activities to delay the onset of Alzheimers and/or dementia has plenty of medical evidence suggesting it is a Good Thing.

    I just wish I could think of a mentally stimulating activity that was also social and had other side benefits ...hmm...
  • Posted By: James_NostackWhat would a genuinely all-ages Story Game look like?
    I'll get back to you in 30-40 years.
  • edited August 2009
    Posted By: Dave YounceMyvery first post at the Forgewas about this very idea. I never got around to it, but I still think it's a potentially great idea. I wonder whether a game like Danger Patrol, based on a retro view of the future, might hold a wide appeal among those who were children during the space craze.
    David, I actually remember that Forge post. I wish I'd had enough sense to follow up on it, but it was a lifetime ago. Also, though you beat her to the punch by four years, two months, two weeks and five days, my girlfriend wants co-credit :P
  • Just so ya'll know, if this moves forward, I called dibs on the name GeriatriCon years ago.
  • Even just physically seniors are going to exhibit a wide range of differences. Many are in senior centers because they have a hard time taking care of themselves. They suffer from degraded manual dexterity (some folks hands get very shakey in old age), poor eyesight and hearing, and so on. So it's not just subject matter of a game that's an issue
    that's a good point, Chris. I don't know any of our rulebooks that are Large Print. Old folks might have trouble manipulating (or reading) dice or cards, too.

    The other problem is psycho-social. The old folks homes I've been in are horrifically depressing. While everyone's circumstances are different, in any particular gaming group there'd be a pretty good chance of someone grieving over the recent loss of a friend or spouse, someone else who feels neglected by their kids, someone who's feeling depressed about what they're life has boiled down to, and someone with issues with the nurses/management. Playing Nut-Ball with seniors strikes me as exceedingly reckless. (As I believe Paul said, these are dangerous games.)

    So it would have to be a game that's fun, easy to remember, doesn't require fine motor skills, and doesn't involve face-stabbing.
  • edited August 2009
    This thread puts me in mind of the "Kick the Can" segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie.

    I've played rpgs with many non-seniors who should have never been introduced to roleplaying. It doesn't take being old for your grasp of reality to be tenuous or for emotional issues to overcome your ability to deal with them. I guess I'm saying that the psycho-social issues should definitely be taken into account, but I don't see them as being a reason not to go forward with your idea.

    The staff of a senior center should have a decent idea of which residents might have a difficult time with roleplaying. At least, I would hope that they are paying enough attention to have that knowledge.
  • Definately talk to the staff, yeah. Hell, teach the staff to play story games and then get them to play with the seniors.

    This is the first time I've ever wanted to work at a senior center. I'd be the guy in charge of playing story games.
  • edited August 2009
    If you're serious about designing games for old folks, talk to the old folks. Don't hypothesise about what they like. Don't talk to the staff. Talk to the people you're designing games for.

    Seriously, guys, these are people we're talking about. So far, this thread has viewed them as subjects. View them as participants instead. Talk to them.

    Graham
  • They are subjects, Graham. Playing story games with them is only the first step. Eventually James will link their minds together, forming a vast network encompassing eons of experience and knowledge. There will be no force in the universe that is more powerful in the area of afternoon naps and repeating things that have already been said.

    Seriously, I don't think anybody is suggesting making folks roleplay like they were rats in a maze. If James wants to ponder, theorize, and discuss while he decides if he actually wants to do this thing or not, then I think that's just fine. It's really a rather big commitment and responsibility he's considering taking on.
  • A few weeks ago, I ran a session of Story jam at a family camp with about 25 people, all of whom ranged from 45-70 (except for me).

    They decided that they wanted to tell the story of Madeleine of Shreksbach, a faerie tale with magical helpers. We did, it took about an hour (it was late and folks needed to get to bed), it engaged almost everyone, and it was good.

    For my own style of story gaming and design, I have been finding more success with folks who have no exposure to story games than with veterans with all their preconceptions.

    I would guess that, in order to reach older folks as a demographic (or most folks in the general population, for that matter) effectively with story game, you will have to think about how to move away from many of the aspects that make this a specialized niche. "Mechanics", focus on conflict, mandatory edgy play... these things often drive away the uninitiated, and would almost certainly drive away almost all elderly people.
  • And if you do decide to move forward with something like this from the research angle, feel free to hit me up as a psychologist in this field as I am currently working on pioneering empirically experimental therapeutic interventions using collaborative storytelling.
  • edited August 2009
    I ramble, probably in ways nothing to do with the OP's intent:

    it strikes me that all Story Games are pretty much designed for people age 25-35.

    Uh-oh. I'm 42. Anybody want to buy a collection of games? Or maybe I'm young for my age! (Or just immature?)

    If the upper bound is 35, then you can also ask the question, "Are you designing games for middle-aged people." And if the games really are designed for 25-35 year olds, then I imagine lots of y'all are in that age range, which makes me wonder, "Are you designing games for your parents?" Do any of you play these games with your parents, or older relatives? What would you do if someone's Uncle Buck came along to a game night, or a con?

    A friend of mine who's about 60 looooves going to GenCon. He's into board games and collectible card games. In passing I mentioned how I was trying to game more, but that the folks that hang out at the game store just seem so damned young. He expressed his feeling that he's become an "old man" at the Con, that when he walks up to a group of younger people playing a game, he can sense them drawing away rather than being welcoming.

    Of course, it's not just in gaming that divides people by age. Outside of family, we in the US tend to retreat into our own age brackets. The interesting questions for me are "Will you be designing games when you're a senior?" or "Do seniors design games?"
  • My short answer: I am actively designing a game for my 65+ year old father. My approach is radically different than the game I designed for my (just-turned-40) wife. I'm designing it so that "success" can be gained through participative storytelling, resource manipulation OR through luck of the dice, independently or in combination. I am also targetting nostalgia - working from his childhood heroes to build an engaging "hook".
  • And for the record, James, I will be 40 in less than a year and have been really only been playing and working in the Story Game 'thought space' for 4-5 years. Like others, I think your target demographic figure might be a bit off.
  • My mom's 58, and we've had some discussions around RPGs. I had the very misguided notion that she'd like a system that was very freeform with no rules. I pitched a system to her. She immediately started throwing in rules that she thought would be fun, and wanted some stuff simply based around mathematical coolness. So, strangely, it might be D&D. Except, the idea of killing things really bothers her. She's a Star Trek fan, but playing Klingon Honour Guard really bothered her, she wanted a non-killing solution (go figure, most Star Trek solutions don't involve violence) Descent (the computer game) she had no qualms about, since you're blowing up robots, but it made her motion sick. So the trick would be to have a mentally stimulating game with a fairly complex set of rules where you can go on adventures and not kill anyone. Or something which is completely satyrised (Paranoia maybe?)

    This would be very fun to develop anyway, because most systems have incredibly complex rules for combat, but not much else.

    Off hand I really want to play shock: social science fiction with her, and I think it's a game that could be pitched to almost any sci fi fan. There's actually a lot of people I want to try to play it with. I think A Dirty World could work too, simply because there aren't any specific mechanics for combat or killing people (you can die, but it's sort of a side rule and could be taken out), so it could be entirely eliminated and still be equally fun (whereas D&D without combat is freeform roleplaying). I haven't played Paranoia, but the whole setting is absurd, you end up dying a lot (6 clones) so I think it could be fun in that aspect.
  • Posted By: BlueAnd for the record, James, I will be 40 in less than a year and have been really only been playing and working in the Story Game 'thought space' for 4-5 years. Like others, I think your target demographic figure might be a bit off.
    No offense intended to the fossil gamers among us, I was just ballparking it. Two of my favorite players are 39, and lord knows Ron Edwards is ancient.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarI just wish I could think of a mentally stimulating activity that was also social and had other side benefits ...hmm...
    Pinochle?
  • Posted By: C. EdwardsFor all I know Panty Explosion would be a big hit down at the senior center.
    Just the mental image of a bunch of WWII vets playing Panty Explosion tickles me pink! That would have to be the most hardcore game of PE ever played.

    For older gamers, SOTC would be a good pick. If they liked pulps then, they will get the idea now. Hell, they might even teach us a thing or two. ("No one ever said "jeepers'! That was something people said in movies...." or what-have-you)
Sign In or Register to comment.