Older Kiwis take to gaming for fun, health and positive ageing

More than two in five New Zealanders over the age of 65 now regularly play video games, many for the positive effects gaming can have on their thinking skills, coordination and mental stimulation but also for fun and maintaining social connections, the latest Digital New Zealand report shows.

The report is compiled every second year by Bond University lecturer on emerging and interactive media industries Jeff Brand, on behalf of the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA).

The 2016 report shows that 43 per cent of New Zealanders aged 65 and over now play video games, compared to 32 per cent in 2013. This number included 44 per cent of people aged between 75 and 84 and 17 per cent of those aged between 85 and 94 saying they played video games.

While video games are first and foremost a form of entertainment, some are using games for their benefits to health and positive ageing.

“The use of games-based technology is increasingly finding its way into physical and mental health applications,” Professor Brand said. “I continue to marvel at the growing adoption of video games beyond just entertainment.”

When asked if playing games improved thinking skills, 84 per cent of adults agreed. 70 per cent agreed video games increased mental stimulation, 76 per cent said video games helped improve coordination and dexterity and 47 per cent said video games could help fight dementia.

Those over the age of 50 make up the fastest growing segment of the population new to games, accounting for 47 per cent.

“The significant growth spurt in this segment of the population means that New Zealanders are increasingly using games as a preventive measure to healthy ageing and the benefits are undeniable,” Professor Brand said.

Among the uses of video games for positive ageing, respondents cited attributes such as increasing mental stimulation, maintaining social connections, encouraging open-mindedness, fighting dementia, increasing mobility and reducing arthritis.

For health, they cited improvements to thinking skills, coordination, emotional wellbeing, balance and physical fitness.

Another emerging trend identified by this year’s report concerns watching video games as a form of entertainment. Just like people watch movies, TV shows and documentaries, they are now watching other people play video games. This trend is not limited to eSports as nowadays, games enthusiasts, including children, are interested in watching and learning from ‘professional’ players.

One in two (48 per cent) Kiwi players watch gameplay videos online and 15 per cent have created walkthroughs to share with others.

“What this means is that video games have become a mainstream activity in New Zealand, and they are a game-changer in the way New Zealanders consume digital and interactive media,” Professor Brand said.

”Two thirds (67 per cent) of the population play, and video game devices are present in 98 per cent of New Zealand family homes.”

Other key findings of the Digital New Zealand Report 2016 include:

  • Video games are a normal part of media use: the daily average time spent playing video games is 88 minutes. Ten minutes, three times a day is typical for casual game play, with one hour daily typical for in-depth game play
  • Games are not only enjoyed by kids and teenagers: 78 per cent of the game playing population is aged 18 years or older
  • It’s not a boy thing: nearly half (48 per cent) of the game population is female
  • It’s a family and social thing: 79 per cent of playing parents play with their children, and 26 per cent of adult players play online games with partners
  • Parents usually monitor children’s use: two thirds (65 per cent) of adults are ‘always present’ to purchase games for children, and half (52 per cent) are familiar with parental controls on game systems
  • The multiple-screen household is the new norm: 83 per cent of New Zealand households have three or more screens in their homes; 49 per cent have five or more screens
  • Video games beyond entertainment: 23 per cent of Kiwi adults have used video games at work for training purposes, and 38 per cent of parents say their children have used video games for school curriculum.

IGEA CEO Ron Curry said this year’s report reinforces the breadth and depth of New Zealand’s gaming community.

“When we conducted the first report in 2010, video games were still seen as just an entertainment medium aimed at the younger children,” Mr Curry said. “Today, the profile of the typical New Zealand gamer is an adult of 34 years old and the reasons for playing video games are no longer one-dimensional.

“We are witnessing significant changes in the realm of digital interactive entertainment where games have become an amazing medium to supplement healthy aging and reinvigorate the way we engage with digital media.”

Posted in New Zealand eHealth

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