The best video games for seniors

The world of videogames has changed drastically since the days of Atari and Frogger. Today’s games are more challenging, more realistic, and even smarter (through artificial intelligence). Additionally, the videogame consoles, like Nintendo’s Wii, Microsoft’s Xbox 360, and Sony’s PlayStation 3, are transforming into home entertainment systems, not simply just games. This is slowly changing everything; from how we watch movies and television shows, to socializing with the global community, even making purchases online can be done using modern videogame console technologies.

Seniors everywhere are having fun and benefiting from the great opportunities made possible by these newly designed videogames. Nintendo Wii, for instance, is quite popular at many assisted living communities because of the simple controls, the social flavor of the gaming experience, and the choice of games available, such as golf, tennis, and bowling. For those unfamiliar with Nintendo’s Wii, it was the first videogame console in the mainstream to be controlled primarily by motion sensory.

Players’ movements control the game, not the intricate pressing of buttons on a controller, which makes Nintendo Wii accessible to a wide audience. There is still a controller, but moving it physically is how a player would interact with a game. For example, when playing a golf game, the player would hold the controller as if it were a golf club. A typical golf club swinging motion is needed to play the game, which is second nature to many older adults, so the learning curve is very short. Playing a tennis game would be quite similar.

The player would hold the controller as if it were a tennis racket and swing it physically to play the game. A sensor in front of the player detects the motion and translates it in the game as a swing. Playing these types of games is super simple, which is why Nintendo Wii is the most popular videogame consoles for seniors.

Another great feature offered only by Nintendo Wii is called ‘Wii Fit’. Simply explained, Wii Fit is a board the player stands on that can detect the motion of their feet, among other things. This idea extends beyond the concept of games because many people who use it do so as an alternative to going to the gym or other physical exercise. With the Wii Fit, players can take part in a guided yoga or Pilates class, get advice from a virtual personal trainer based on their personal needs and abilities, or even train for a marathon. By using motion sensory as a means to control videogames, the boundaries of what these technologies can do seem limitless.

In a similar fashion, Microsoft Xbox 360 offers players another way to control their videogames; voice recognition. This may seem unbelievable, but Xbox 360 can understand voice commands, which means that players can tell it what to do. As stated previously, modern videogame consoles do much more than just play games. Users can also watch movies, listen to music, do research on the Internet, and even use popular social networking tools like Facebook. By using what they call Xbox Kinect, players ask the console to do things for them.

For instance, if I wanted to listen to a song already loaded on my console, I would say something like, “Xbox, play music”, followed by, “Xbox, play Dean Martin”. The key to this idea is that the player calls out to their Xbox by saying “Xbox”, which lets the console know it should start listening because it heard its name. You’ve maybe seen this idea in movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey (HAL, the talking computer) or television shows like Knight Rider (KITT, the talking car). In both cases, these technologies could listen to human commands and perform actions based on them. This is pretty incredible stuff, and its available today in our videogames.

In addition to supporting motion sensory controls (PlayStation Move) and voice recognition (PlayStation PSVR), Sony’s PlayStation 3 pushes the visual effects of videogames to the next level by using Blu-Ray technologies. If you’re not familiar with the concept of Blu-Ray, a simple explanation is that both video and audio capabilities dwarf those of DVD.

The picture and sound on Blu-Ray is much better quality than DVD, making this technology the new standard. Blu-Ray discs have more memory than DVD discs (50GB vs. 8GB), which create many options for both film makers and videogame developers. At this point, some videogames look almost real, as if they were filmed, making the player feel as though they are in a movie while playing. The PlayStation console itself can also play Blu-Ray movies, making it both your videogame and entertainment device, cutting down on the number of technologies you have connected to your television.

There are SO many things people are doing with videogames these days; it’s hard to believe we’re just scratching the surface of what’s to come in the future. Seniors playing today’s videogames do so to be entertained, to socialize both in person and virtually over the Internet, and to contribute to a healthy, active routine. If you like having fun with your friends and family, videogames are a great way to bring people together across all generations.