Dedicated senior gamers are few and far between in India but users from different generations and age groups around the world are engaged in gaming now more than ever
KN, a former healthcare software professional from Bengaluru, has diverse taste in gaming. During a 20-minute conversation, he shares his memories of BioWare’s 1998 video game Baldur’s Gate and playing massive multiplayer online titles like Neverwinter in recent years. But KN is not your average, millennial gamer. He has just turned 50.
“I have just finished God of War, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and before that Divinity: Original Sin II," KN tells me over the phone. “I replayed (The Elder Scrolls V:) Skyrim for a bit, Kingdom of Amalur, the remastered Dark Souls III… On the PC, Pillars of Eternity, Civilization VI. Lots of games," he says. Apart from a PC, he owns an Xbox One and a Playstation 4. Does mobile gaming interest him, I ask. “I play Candy Crush in the loo," he says.
The 50-year-old first experienced gaming in the 1980s with the hand-held, clamshell design Nintendo Game & Watch, along with games like Donkey Kong and Paratrooper. Then PC gaming came along in the early 90s during his post-graduation years at the Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta. “We used to have a dedicated gaming PC in the computer room back then… I changed my sleep cycle so that I could play when nobody else was around," he recalls. Today, he ends up playing around 5 hours daily and is waiting for upcoming titles like God of War 2 and Baldur’s Gate 3. “I already have a huge backlog of games that I still need to play," he tells me.
Such dedicated senior gamers like KN, however, are few and far between in India, where most e-sports and online gamers fall in the age-group of 18-44. Mobile gaming is a more popular option for many—89% of India’s gamers are on mobile—including those in the age group of 45-54, according to InMobi’s Audience Insights Mobile Gaming, Asia Pacific report released in August.
“The largest monetizing user base in India on mobile games are people above the age of 50, the seniors," says Akshat Rathee, founder and managing director of the Gurugram-based e-sports company NODWIN Gaming. “Before the age of 10, if your parents made you play video games, you will love them. India didn't have that. Today, our oldest, 'real gamers' are between 40-50 years old," explains Rathee, who adds that the fact that most senior players in India are into non-console game and titles like Ludo King, isn’t necessarily bad. “There is a place for everyone in gaming," he says.
The common stigma around gaming and its ill-effects also seems to be fading away. “The good thing is that e-sports is still in a nascent stage in the country and everyone (from all age groups) can be a part of it. If we can make that happen, it would be a wonderful story for India," says Lokesh Suji, director, Esports Federation of India.
One thing is clear though. Globally, users from different generations are engaged in this activity now more than ever. A recent report by Limelight Networks, a US-based premier content delivery network service provider, explains how there have been massive changes in online gaming behaviour over the last year: “Binge-gaming is on the rise. Gamers (in the age group) 18-60 have played for more than four hours consecutively." The State of Online Gaming 2020 report was based on responses from 4,500 consumers in France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the UK, and the US, aged 18 and older who play video games at least once a week.
The trend looks to be catching on elsewhere too. In the final match of the Senior CS:GO World Cup at Dreamhack Summer, one of Europe’s biggest gaming festivals, in June 2019, the Silver Snipers from Sweden defeated the Grey Gunners, a Finnish senior e-sports team. The average age of the five-member Silver Snipers team, which was recruited and sponsored by technology company Lenovo in 2018, is 67. One of its members is Inger ‘Trigger Finger’ Grotteblad, 68. In gaming parlance, Grotteblad is slowly becoming a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive veteran, having spent close to 1,000 hours playing the game, which she first came to know about through her grandchildren. Headshots—a term in Counter-Strike where you kill an opponent with a shot to the head—are her speciality. “Wherever we go, the young gamers thought we were fantastic. They treated us like rockstars," she says during a Google Meet call from Uppsala, a city near the Swedish capital Stockholm.
Recently, Grotteblad—who has eight grandchildren—started a Facebook group called “Gaming Senior" to support others from her age group who might be facing isolation or battling loneliness during the covid-19 pandemic. Apart from teaching them more about computers, she is also introducing them to the world of gaming. Her teammates—Abbe “BirDie" Drakborg, 76, Wanja “Knitting Knight" Godänge, 65, Baltasar “El Niño" Aguirre, 66, and Öivind “Windy" Toverud, 77—often join in and interact with members of this group, which now has more than 100 people. “Gaming is not just for young people," she says. “I think everybody should try having fun with gaming. You keep your mind working all the time. In the game we are playing (CS:GO), you have to be fast, strategic and make quick decisions. I keep my mind young. It's a new world that I have met. If I like to go to other worlds, I can do it on the screen and that's great," she adds.