Old people
A rapidly rarifying blight on existence

But what to do if you love one or possibly several of these wretched episodes of the inexorable march of time? You can't just put them in a soundproof box until their expire, though you can put them out of earshot--neither of these things will prevent feelings of guilt, however. So we must try harder.

I have an email address, and occasionally people write to it. They say things to me, and some of them are unkind. But occasionally, I get something relevant and lucid which is worth responding to. It's times like these that I forward my viagra mail.

(snip introduction)...and so I eventually ended up at your webpage which had a staggering amount of game related information/observations/whatever.

So, a month later, you seem like a reasonable person to approach out of the blue in regards to my dilemma. I read some article, a while back, about how old people are getting into playing video games. Perhaps more accurately, I suppose, the younger people who have always been playing them are just getting old. Nonetheless it made me start thinking about whether I could get my grandmother playing some.

My grandparents have a computer and my grandfather uses it for the internet and financial stuff. My grandmother, though, is pretty phobic of it and I doubt would ever use it. So Im trying to think of a gaming console that might work. They have a large TV and maybe she would equate it more with a 'television', something she's comfortable with, than a 'computer'.

What console to get then? Well are there any that have really, really simplistic games? Things like Mahjong and Solitaire(The stuff more readily associated with computers). Also do you know of any sort of simplified controllers. I bet she could handle something along the lines of an old Atari joystick or even original NES controller but the modernday Xbox controllers are likely to overwhelm.

I dont know. Conceptually it seems like it could be a good gift because she's old and no longer drives and her eyesight is largely shot. Because of that she cant read or knit or do most of the other things she used to like doing. Instead she sits at home fretting and worrying and complaining.

Something like Mahjong, I think, could really go a long way to keeping her occupied and busy and happy. And who knows maybe, given time, she could even work her way up to Mario Brothers. That would be grand!

So if you have any ideas please, please let me know.

(snip cute signature)
So this gentleman wants to make his grandmother shut up (in a nice way; shut up because she's happy, not because she's afraid or in an insurmountable funk of despair). When I sat down to give advice, I realized just how huge the gap between the generation raised on electronics and the previous generations is.

So what follows is my response to him:

Well (person), I must warn you that, were you up on just *how* big of a flaming asshole I was, you wouldn't be so eager to approach me. But luckily, the reputation of which you aren't, apparently, aware, is not completely deserved, and so I would ask that, were you to prejudge me and *not* approach me with questions such as this, you reconsider and not judge a book by it's cover, but since you did, you aren't, and I won't.

That said.

There's a disconnect between those who are aging into gaming and those who are actually just old. Those who've aged have gone through a subconscious training process which is far more formidable than it may seem. You have to realize that the most complex form of entertainment in your grandparent's day was drug-use, and, as it was frowned upon, most people of a certain age have not even sampled *this* much of existence. I'm not advocating drug use, I'm just saying that an acid trip never hurt anybody who later became boring and whiny. Not that your grandmother is this way, I'm just saying in general.

For starters there's the biology of it. Realize it or not, but even the simplest hand motions require a great deal of training and have toughened the hands of the average game user in a manner similar to a car mechanic before air compressors got cheap, or a pianist. The closest allegory to the comparitively simple act of typing is becoming *very* experienced with a musical instrument of some kind, and the fact that your grandmother's hands might not be conditioned to the shear physical stress can make it unpleasant to play these games, regardless of how simple and slow they are--even majong is a trial for someone who doesn't use their digits to manipulate something for long periods of time. While it might seem like knitting fills this role, it's not necessarily the case, since alot of it is in the wrists from what I understand. Meanwhile there's arthritis to consider. I don't know if that's an issue.

Then there's the idea of manipulating something in your hands to produce an effect on a screen. This is simple to us, since we've grown up with it, but the closest concept in your grandmother's mind (unless she enjoys radio-controlled cars or planes) is a car. And a car has a visceral feedback mechanism which provides a very different kind of experience.

Beyond that there are hundred subtle icons we've become completely oblivious to which will be a mystery to her. A cursor is probably something she is still trying to understand. The mere *idea* of a menu system is Utterly foreign to anyone born before (arbitrarily) the 70's. What we understand to be a selection leading to a sub-menu or whatever else is this strange way of doing things to your grandmother. Does she use something like tivo or on-demand satellite tv types of interfaces to watch tv? Or just channel up and down? I'd wager that even channel up and down is vaguely unfamiliar. After all, when she was little, the dial on the tv set probably pointed to each channel individually; giving it a unique identity, instead of an anonymous position in relation to nearly a 100+ other channels. Your grandmother is still probably somewhat distanced from the workings of a vcr. And a DVD player? My god! Whatever happend to just putting the movie in and pressing play!?

Then, assuming you get past this *incredible* amount of training that makes operating an electronic device with a feedback mechanism for your input, there's the fact that you have to train your reactions as though you've learned to type. Except you don't just train your reactions once and then improve; you retrain them for nearly *every* different game.

I realize you're picking static games, but lets face it, the console is not the ideal place for static. If she wants static then you duct tape her to the computer until she gets enamored of Solitaire, right? I mean, that *is* the archetype of all gaming that consumes millions each year with its foul rotting teeth and grotesquely triple jointed jaws; engulfing tides of people like a distorted python conquering the carcass of a moaning wounded beast.

So. We're looking for something that's... assuming your grandmother doesn't have arthritis, is comfortable with the idea of interacting with something on screen, is willing to train her reactions, and has some kind of familiarity with a musical instrument, or typing, or operating something requiring similar dexterity (perhaps she performed Colonoscopy in WWII?)... not going to be offensively childish, yet neither forbiddingly hip and aggressive.

The first place I'd start thinking is video games that don't require what rational human beings consider controllers. The music games are a good thought. I doubt danc dance revolution or guitar heroes will work, but Donkey Konga is soft imagery that's nonthreatening--contains songs that your grandmother will recognize and not be offended by (there's a hungarian waltz in there for chrissake, if she can't relate to that, then she's not really a grandmother--she's an alien wearing your grandmothers skin like a hermit crab inhabiting a fossilized pear; no offense). However, Donkey Konga is basically a monkey telling you to hit a pair of drums, and that might be humiliating to someone who has lived almost 3 times as long as you have. It really depends on her sense of humor and her girly quotient. Some women lose girlyness as they age; refining themselves into a jagged blade of deadly gravitas. Others get girlier and girlier until they relate to your children better than you do for the 2 or 3 years they know them before they move on to another (hopefully not more fiery) plane of existence. If it seems like I'm dwelling on this point, it's because I lost the 2nd part of a pair fairly recently, and she was getting kind of antsey beforehand too; so the consciousness of how important the time-factor is in introducing her to a new hobby is still in the forefront of my mind. I hope I'm not getting too uh... as the 'urban' (ethnic!) people say, in a peculiar and inscrutable way.. real. But let a playa play. I think you know what I'm saying.

So there's DKonga. Which is good because you just have to hit it and clap, which is probably something she can do. There's also a game where you help donkeykong climb vines and so forth using the konga controller, that she might gradually get interested in.

There's also Samba De Amigo, which she might like because it's maracas and a little more tongue-in-cheek than Donkey Kong (which is unabashedly aimed low--age/maturitywise). However waving the maracas around might get old? It really depends on her, I guess.

Assuming she doesn't like music, and complains about loud noises, and is generally irritable around what most people consider fun, you'll have to look for something with a slow pace and simple interface. I'm really trying to think and honestly I'm coming up mostly dry on this. You might think of an RPG, assuming it doesn't have too many menus. She might like Zelda, for isntance, though that does have a pretty formidable interface, so maybe that's a bad way to go. Katamari Damacy might be her speed, since you basically just roll a ball and it's not that hard to get the hang of. The visuals might throw her off though, since the japanes are (and I hope this doesn't cross a line) *weird*.

Final Fantasy XI is on Playstation, 2, right? That's the one that's an MMO. I don't know how you feel bout this, but maybe that would work. Then she could talk to people and learn marvelous knew words like 'omg', 'wtf', and 'newb'.

You could even go so far as to try Halo on her. For a FPS, it's a fairly slow pace, and she might have a lot of angst to take out. Make sure you teach her how to teabag.

Chu Chu rocket is a puzzle game about saving mice from cats by helping them get to their spaceships. She might like that.

Other than those possibilities, I have no idea. Honestly, if she doesn't go for Donkey Konga, I think it's a lost cause, altogether.

... and so there we are. I honestly couldn't think of much else. It's hard to retrain something that's taken years to learn, especially late in life.

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