Generation O - by Julie Whitefeather
Sep 24, 2007 21:15:35

Generation O - part one

We live in an era when children grow up with the internet and online games. But there are some 'old school' gamers like me that can remember when the days when the internet was so small that PC magazine could feature the entire internet on a two page spread. Still, the internet has developed with such rapidity that you don't even need to be that old to remember that time.

The thing about online games like World of Warcraft is that you have no real way of knowing if the person on the other side of the pixels is sixteen or sixty nine - and as time goes on, a lot more gamers are closer to the second half of that age bracket. Recently I spent some time talking with two women about this same end of the age bracket.

These are two women, two friends, that I would never have met where it not for online gaming communities - Karen, from the opposite side of the country and Bregdania from the opposite side of the world. If you read my earlier article on gamers from Australia, you have already met Bregdania, so I will let Karen introduce herself first."

Karen: "They say that you should authenticate yourself so here is what I have done since I came online: I started simply by joining where I played live poker, spades and hearts with other people. That has gone but two friends that I made there continue to be daily emailers. I joined Mplayer and played the same sort of games then became a *game wizard* which means that I helped to run contests and games that gave away real money and prizes. That went into another side which was beta testing games. We did testing (for free or well for free games and t-shirts and other little prizes) on games not yet released to the public. Was fun trying to break a game since I must confess I wasn't that good at gaming. It was sorta natural to me. Then Gamespy bought out Mplayer. I stayed on as a wizard there for a bit and even did Mplayer europe for a while. Then I found Ultima Online and thats over 5 years ago. I am still there and haven't learned it all yet."

Julie: "Bregdania is from Australia, and is an accomplished artist. She and I are both in The Older Gamers (TOG), as I have mentioned in my earlier article. For those of you who may not have heard of TOG it is a very large group (about 14,000 per one estimate) for gamers over the age of 25. People who did not grow up with computers and internet became acquainted with it in different ways. For myself I was in grad school when the instructor asked everyone to raise there hands who considered themselves a wizard with a spreadsheet - two hands in the room went up. So I had computers forced upon me. How did you start out Bregdania?"

Bregdania: "It is quite a laugh when I consider how I started out. One of my sons was heading off to the US for a few years with his computing business and I was provided with access to the internet to keep in touch. Now you'd think with three computer literate children I would know all about it. Not so! I still look at the exercise book I used to write down every step by step way to access the internet and the computer. The steps were so basic - but every time I forgot something I just needed to look up "my own words". They made much more sense than anything else because it was terminology I understood. After a while the exercise book wasn't needed but I still add something new every so often - it's too easy to forget things you don't do frequently."

Julie: "Bregdania, you have taught people who are much older than yourself to use the internet. How did this start?"

Bregdania: "I'm certainly happy to let you know what I've found with the older (and some younger) people I've taught. Some would say a case of the blind leading the blind...My efforts in teaching older people about the internet has sprung from the local artists - the majority being over 70. These are vital active people - not the people in nursing homes or similar situations. That doesn't mean they don't have reservations about computers and the internet. Many believe they are a waste of precious time taken from painting or other activities. Others though - have realised the potential out there. Of course that realisation has come about from careful exposure to the benefits. Once you get past the mental block many older people have about it being a waste of time - a toy - something for young people - then the hard part is over. The next step is to teach them not to feel stupid and inferior because the technology doesn't come quickly."

Julie: "So when you started teaching people who are a bit hesitant to use the internet, how have they taken to it?"

Bregdania: "I've introduced and taught 'how to use the internet', to a number of ladies a good deal older than myself and I just love the way they are taking to it. It has opened a portal to the world for people to get to know one another in a whole new way. Ideally I would like to think that because the world has become a smaller place with the advent of the internet that perhaps in time we will also become a lot more tolerant and caring toward people that were perhaps perceived as being 'too different'. To gain understanding and loose the aggression!"

Next time Karen, Bregdania and myself will talk a bit about 'the older gamer' - reactions to the internet, gaming and 'coming out of the videogame closet'. Until then...

Generation O - part two

Last time you met my friends Karen and Bregdania - two friends that the internet and gaming made possible. Last time we talked about some of our own experiences as well as introducing others to online gaming. This time we will talk about the reaction of gamers to the internet, and society's reaction to the 'older gamer' - people who did not grow up with MMOs like Club Penguin.

Bregdania: "Karen, I'm staggered by your knowledge of on-line games and the background you have. What have I been doing all this time I say to myself! I could have been having all this fun years ago when I consider that I played the original Ultima's on the pc with my kids probably 20 - 25 years ago. All of the Ultima from 1 through to 6 or 7? (I think it was) before it went online. In case you didn't know I only started playing online at the beginning of this year - so it's all very new to me. For me the biggest hurdle are the acronyms being used - I am compiling a list of them at present. I'm embarrassed to confess, I don't even know what MMO stands for and have never heard of Club Penguin."

Karen: "I guess Julie will probably need to use something besides MMO since even though I have been online since 1987 or so I just had to look it up..."

Julie: "Well my grandmother would have said using gaming acronyms is like hitting yourself in the head with a brick - you can get used to anything if you do it long enough. Still, I am sure our readers have heard Everquest called 'Evercrack'. I know a lot of people who seem to be part of the 'television generation' - people for whom television seems to be like crack cocaine for an addict. I have memories of my grandmother, when she was still alive, 'warming up the television' to watch 'Barney Miller' - a throw back to the days of tube type televisions. Karen, do you think gaming would help keep the minds active of people from a generation to whom computers may be a bit 'foreign'?"

Karen: "I do indeed believe that learning about computers and gaming would help people to continue mental growth. Personally speaking I have been involved in gaming since around 1989. It is wonderful to be able to talk to people, establish friendships with people and face challenges in online gaming. It is wonderful to see how others help people out. Sometimes older people get the idea that they are alone or maybe they wish they would get more communication from busy family or friends. If you are gaming online your friends are just a password away. My husband and I do know of a good friend who is 84 and trying to get into the computer. His problem seems to be too many people setting his access levels. It was to the point that he could not even receive emails when he asked for help. I would recommend a class for our seniors. It would give them social time and help them to start making friends. Then help them with online friends."

Julie: "Karen, if more people who are from a generation that did not grow up with computers take an interest in playing MMOs how do you feel that would change the market?"

Karen: "I feel that if more people from my generation joined the games they would certainly profit from it. I also think that they would go to the easier games to start. Online safety isn't something that you have brought up and that is certainly something that should be covered. I have seen some who take things too far. Also some who are giving away passwords and losing things etc. well lets not dwell on that too much but caution should be a part of it all."

Julie: "There was a time that admitting you were a gamer was something you kept quiet about if you are an adult. If there is anything that Blizzard Entertainment has done with World of Warcraft that is change the image of who plays games. I didn't come "out of the gamer closet" until Mother Superior caught me playing Ultima Online on the sly one day."

Bregdania: "As the population ages - more and more 'older' people will continue to access the internet and broaden their experiences. I have to admit - I have not shared my online game passion with them - now I have the mental block about the 'wasted time'! For me it's not a waste - but I fear what they might think. It was with great pleasure that I discovered another artist (a former student my own age) who also enjoys on-line gaming! We both chuckle about it and wish we weren't so reluctant to share our 'other obsession!'"

Julie: "Karen, have you had any experiences either positive or negative by people who know you play videogames?"

Karen: "My friends are surprised when I tell them that I don't watch tv anymore. When I point out that all the shows now are the reality things and some are even not real they do agree. I like saying hi to people that I know and like. I also like that when I am tired I can just say goodnight which is not what you can do if they are visiting your home. People don't understand the game that I play or my interest in it very much but I think that they would if they could try it and be good at it. It gives a sense of accomplishment when you can successfully win or do something. I do know that the games are made to keep you playing but why would we play if they didn't? I like new things and learning new things. Why not play online? I am at home and not out somewhere."

I would like to thank Karen and Bregdania for being willing to have a dialogue about the older gamer. There are more of us then you think - and that group gets bigger all the time. If you aren't an 'older gamer' now - just wait.

See you online,

- Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on Sep 24, 2007 21:15:35 CST (comments: 4)

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