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Seventeen percent of video and computer gamers are over the age of 55. Let that figure sink in for a moment.

And then consider that senior citizen players constitute one of the fast growing segments of the video game market. And consider that only 21 percent of the current games market is composed of children and teens.

People in the industry are starting to call them “grey gamers.” At first, these players were seen as a bonus market, something that happened magically, without any conscious effort. Increasingly, as this cohort’s share of the market has grown, the game companies are starting to pay attention and design games that are designed to appeal to seniors as much as to younger players.

In a recent report, Cox News reporter Shelley Emling offers a range of explanations for the emergence of this unexpected market: some people are playing to spend more time with their grandchildren; some enjoy games as therapy in order to maintain some degree of physical and mental dexterity; some are seeing games as a form of virtual travel, allowing house-bound elders to explore a world larger than the space of their own apartments; and some veterans have been attracted by a growing number of titles that offer detailed recreations of World War II battles.

We can understand the emergence of the “grey gamers” as an outgrowth of other trends that show seniors living longer, having more disposable income, consuming more entertainment, and maintaining better health than previous generations. As the baby boomers age, a larger and larger segment of the population will be composed of senior citizens–and this group will be influencing cultural production in pretty dramatic terms.

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