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I'm a newbie in game design and gaming in general (Tetris, board games, this sort of things). But have observed that the elderly got very much engaged with bubble shooter and solitaires (quite different approaches). I've tried to look for something similar, and have tried to initiate some in these games, but nope, the shooter is always preferred.

Does anybody know of general criteria, design constraints, or (even better) concrete examples of games that the elderly like to play, apart from these two?

Note: agreed, not correctly tagged, but can't find something that fit, nor can I propose new ones.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd suggest this type of question is better answered by consulting academic studies with elders, or performing such interviews and observations directly, rather than asking a Q&A site with users largely in their 30s or younger. You could also reach out to other gamedevs who are specifically working with elders - Miriam Verburg gave a great talk on this subject just yesterday at WordPlay. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Nov 11 '18 at 14:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not sure, but you may also wish to look at slots games. I know that these also are designed to appeal to older people and at least in the UK, are a popular passtime among many older folk. \$\endgroup\$ – Engineer Nov 12 '18 at 7:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting question. I'd add one suggestion to anyone posting answers: be really careful what you consider "elderly". I'll just say that I think a 20 something's perspective of what is old and what it means to be old can be very different than a 40 year old's perspective for example. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Holt Nov 13 '18 at 0:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TimHolt good point. title updated. \$\endgroup\$ – nightcod3r Nov 15 '18 at 20:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DMGregory this is a site for developers, who might want to sell games, and the elderly is a huge (and growing) market... \$\endgroup\$ – nightcod3r Nov 15 '18 at 20:45
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We don't have to speculate, people have studied this topic.

What Older People Like to Play: Genre Preferences and Acceptance of Casual Games mentions that older players prefer casual video games, and specifically identifies casual puzzle games as the subgenre most preferred.

Results

Overall, enjoyment and acceptance of casual game characteristics was high and significantly above the midpoint of the rating scale for all CVG [Casual Video Games] genres. Mixed model analyses revealed that ratings of enjoyment and casual game characteristics were significantly influenced by CVG genre. Participants’ mean enjoyment of casual puzzle games (mean 0.95 out of 1.00) was significantly higher than that for casual simulation games (mean 0.75 and 0.73). For casual game characteristics, casual puzzle and simulation games were given significantly higher game-play ratings than casual action games. Similarly, participants’ control ratings for casual puzzle games were significantly higher than that for casual action and simulation games. Finally, ownership was rated significantly higher for casual puzzle and strategy games than for casual action games.

Beyond the “core-gamer”: Genre preferences and gratifications in computer games goes even further, and correlates genre preferences with age as well as gratifications (i.e. "what I like in games"). A few relevant correlations from the result tables:

  • Older people like games less overall, except for the "competence" ("to improve their skill") gratification which is about the same across ages. They are least interested in fantasy (role-playing, escapism) and teamplay (co-op multiplayer)
  • Of all the genres, puzzle is the only one they like more than other age groups. They like platformers, action and music games the least
  • For puzzle games, the gratifications they are most correlated with are competence and narration (topic and story)
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The games you've stated are very simple in design, and are extremely easy to "win". Some people might argue they can be complex (ie. chaining properly in Tetris and Bubble Shooter), but at the end of the day, it is their simplicity and low entry levels of difficulty.

Following the examples you've stated:

  • Tetris has you rotating blocks that fall down the screen to create lines. They fall slow enough at Level 1; there is ample time to think before it reaches the bottom.
  • Bubble Shooters have you shoot balls to create groups of a color to clear them; it is easy for the same reasons as Tetris.
  • Solitaire has you drag cards until they follow a certain set of rules. The controls are really simple (just drag and drop), but the ability to know what moves to take on the other hand, may not be as simple.
  • Pokémon Go (a more recent example) has you walk around*, tap on monsters and then throw (swipe) balls at them. It is both easy and simple.

* the elderly may find this difficult to do often and for long periods of time as required by the game.

It's also worth noting that both Tetris and a Bubble Shooter are not board games, per say.


Unlike younger people, who are open to learning, can discover patterns easily and are open to more complex gameplay ideas, or things that would have need us to actively think and be aware (ie. spatial awareness in shooters), the elderly may have difficulty grasping such concepts maybe because:

  • They don't have the mindset or experience that most of us younger, modern gamers have.
  • Their mental capacity/reflexes aren't as high (or fast) as, for example: a teenager, or an adult around the age of 40.

And with anything, there are of course some people that are exceptions to the above.

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