Fighting Dementia With Games


I met up with a group of friends tonight. We try and meet a couple of times a week for a chat and to catch up on the latest before heading off out as a team for a fight.

Now you need not run to the phone and notify the police that you’d like to report a violent gang roaming the streets and stealing things from battered and bruised victims.  The meetings take place online in a MMORPG, (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game) also often known as a MMO where every day around the globe millions of people log on to have some fun in a huge range of virtual worlds.

We’re often told that keeping active mentally as well as physically is important as we get older, indeed keeping active mentally may help stave off the onset of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to the Alzheimer’s Association.  Obviously, you don’t get much of a physical workout from bashing away on a keyboard but in combination with an active lifestyle there’s no reason why it cannot help.  For those of you unaware of how MMOs work there can be an awful lot of fast decision making, selecting the correct skills and actions as well as reacting to situations and working effectively in a team to be able to succeed.

Of course, playing in a MMO isn’t always all about fighting.  Many gamers now join with likeminded people and form groups – known as guilds, kinships or fleets – and one of the first things they will do when logging in will be to put on their headsets and join a dedicated chat channel to interact with all their friends.  This can be a great way of staying connected with people, especially for older people in reducing their loneliness if their mobility is reduced and they cannot get out and about as often as they would like, or used to.

Now I hear you say that surely there aren’t pensioners logging on to MMORPGs but you’d be wrong.

We’re reaching the stage now where home computing has been around long enough for someone to have been playing computer games in one form or another for more than 40 years.  In the first MMO I ever played back in 2004 I was playing alongside 70 year olds one of whom is still active now in his 80’s.

I’m aware that the image of gamers outside the gaming world ranges from basement dwelling nerds to losers and weirdoes but there are huge numbers of them and their spending power is formidable.   Global movie box office income for 2016 was a massive 38 billion US dollars – a huge number until you look at the total global income from gaming which came in at 91 billion US dollars, over 38 billion of that alone from PC (Personal computer) gaming. Projections from gaming analysts suggest income will rise above 100 billion dollars next year and grow year on year with income from ‘free to play’ games such as those you see people messing about with on mobile phones to hit 20 billion dollars or more in 2017.

The world of gamers beyond the mobile phone Candy Crush style of game is not widely understood.  I think many people are baffled at the notion – if they’re aware at all – that there are now professional gaming leagues with the top stars earning six figure salaries as well as healthy sponsorship deals.

In fact, it seems that far too often gaming is the subject of ridiculously lurid, wildly inaccurate headlines.

Let’s look at the benefits and drag in those from the lonely, older generation who are not too old to be game active and stimulated – meanwhile having lots of fun.

Guest Writer Tim Baxter is an Englishman who has been living in the North of Scotland since 1993. After 22 years in the RAF, Tim moved to the oil industry as a systems designer. Tim is @TJ69B on Twitter. 

2 thoughts on “Fighting Dementia With Games

  1. Great article Tim! There are huge social benefits to those who are less mobile or socially isolated. The bonds of friendship made in MMOs lasts a long, long time.

  2. A very interesting article, like you say, the world of gaming can be completely misunderstood. Anything that can help these sufferers can only be a good thing. Thank you!

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