Game On: A Fourth of Video-Game Players Are Over 50

Video games are increasingly played by baby boomers. Youngsters, move over.

ByABC News
September 18, 2008, 2:57 PM

POMPTON PLAINS, N.J., Jan. 14, 2008 — -- The stereotype of the modern gamer has been of the glassy-eyed teenager, remote in hand, sitting in front of the screen for hours on end.

The stereotype was never completely accurate, and now, according to the Entertainment Software Association, it's completely changed. The fastest-growing audience for video games is casual players -- many of them over age 50.

"I say, God bless the baby boomers!" laughed Tom Ziegler, a 57-year-old man who tries out video games for a market research firm in New York. He was playing "Guitar Hero III" when we caught up with him. "I mean, we have the time, we have the money, why not?"

Back in 1999, the industry said fewer than 10 percent of America's video-game players were over 50. But since then, the percentage has more than doubled. Today more than one in four players are that age -- a quarter of a $30 billion market.

We dropped in on happy hour at Cedar Crest, a modern retirement community in Pompton Plains, N.J. There was music, pool and an open bar, but the center of attention was a round of Wii Bowling.

"I never thought I'd be playing video games," said Bob Smith, age 74, a former engineer who lives at Cedar Crest with his wife. "This thing here has been a great social draw for people."

"It's like putting a drop of honey out there and watching the bees swarm," he said.

Part of the growth in boomer-gamers has been pushed along by the industry itself; it's been accused repeatedly of marketing violent games that corrupt young minds, and is eager to change its image.

Nintendo, the developer of the Wii, has been particularly aggressive. The Wii's motion-sensitive controller is designed with a minimum of buttons for players to memorize. Instead of pressing buttons, players move the controller in the air, to mimic the motions they would make playing tennis, golf or bowling.

Last year, after a newspaper story ran about a Wii becoming a big hit at a retirement home outside Chicago, Nintendo's public relations people sent consoles to communities around the country.