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The over-55s play video games too

A study conducted by the UOC, coinciding with the Nice One Barcelona festival, shows that around 20% of the Spanish population over the age of 55 frequently plays on their mobile phones

Between 17% and 19% of adults over the age of 55 play video games on their mobile phones, proving that older generations can also be both a target audience for this type of entertainment and leading users of advanced digital technologies. This is the main conclusion of the research conducted by Andrea Rosales, researcher with the Communication Networks & Social Change group (CNSC) of the UOC's Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3).

"There's this idea in society that older people aren't interested in digital technologies, but the facts show that this is simply not true. Not only do they use them for basic purposes such as interpersonal communication, they also use them for other activities, such as entertainment", Rosales stated. The researcher highlighted that the percentage of video game users among this age group is not so far from the average for younger adults, which international studies place at around 30%.

The study sample included 125 people aged between 55 and 79, resident in Spain, who answered a questionnaire on their use of mobile phones and had an app installed that recorded their activity on their device. According to the app's records, 17% of participants played video games every day, while according to the questionnaire, this figure was 19%. Those who played did so for an average of 1 hour a day, in 5-minute sessions.

According to the results, the most widely-used phone games among the over-55s are similar to the most popular ones among younger adults. The list is headed by Apalabrados (similar to Scrabble), Criminal Case (which challenges players to solve mysteries in a detective setting) and Pokémon GO (which revolutionized the market in 2016 with its use of augmented reality to interact with the environment). These are followed by Solitaire and puzzle games Toon Blast and Candy Crush Saga.

The research found no differences between the profile of older adults who played video games and those who did not, not even with regard to age: on average, 79-year-olds play as much as 55-year-olds. The only factor that differs is that video game users also tend to use their phone for a wider range of purposes. "They are more advanced users, they are more adapted to phone use", commented Andrea Rosales.

In this sense, video games could contribute to integrating older people into the digital environment. "By spending more time on their phone, they have greater opportunities to use it and more reasons to develop digital skills", Rosales argued. "It's challenging for people who came later to digital technologies, as every new technology requires a learning period, but at the same time, if you've got an activity that motivates you, like a game, the learning curve is easier to overcome". This could be beneficial beyond entertainment. For example, skilled use of mobile phones helps with mobile banking, official procedures with the authorities or online shopping.

As for their reasons for playing, their motivations are very often social. "They often value playing with people close to them, children and grandchildren, and it's another way to relate to the people who are important to them", the UOC researcher explained. "We're all interested in sharing activities with our loved ones, and in have shared interests with them".

At a time when the Nice One Barcelona festival brings together thousands of video games developers and fans in Barcelona, Andrea Rosales warns that older people are often forgotten by the industry due to the misconception that they are not interested in this kind of entertainment. "The video games industry is not paying attention to this part of the population. It doesn't include them in market surveys or in usability trials. A big sample is being lost", she warned. According to Rosales, video games developers could benefit from taking the ideas and opinions of older people into account, as they are also part of their client base. "We need to design technologies keeping the least favoured in society in mind, remembering not to exclude them from new processes", she added.