The days when video games were for kids are over. According to the ESA, 27% of gamers in the US are over 50! Older adults are embracing games because they both fun and cognitively beneficial. A study from the International Journal of Disability and Human Development showed that the older adults who played video games showed markedly less cognitive decline than the control group. So if older people are reaping the benefits of playing games, surely it stands to reason that they can also try their hand working in the video game industry? The US unemployment level for over 55s is 3.1%, showing that this demographic are either unwilling or unable to give up work just yet. Instead of retiring, many people in middle and old age are opting to change careers. If you are an older gamer and want to make your passion your profession, here are a few ways to break into the gaming industry.
Going back to school is not essential for a new career in gaming, especially if you already have experience in a related industry. However, taking a course will benefit you not only by teaching important skills but helping you make contacts. Many of the top US schools for game design recommended here have connections with top gaming companies, helping you get your foot in the door. As an older adult, you may already have a degree so a short course or a Masters could be a better option for you.
Network offline and online
As an older adult, one of the advantages you many have over your younger peers is confidence and social skills. While younger people may be unsure of themselves you have many more years of experience managing social situations, whatever your first career has been. Use this to your advantage. Attend gaming networking events in your area and showcase your people skills and professionalism. Whilst you may not have contacts in the gaming industry itself, you may well know people in related industries such as computer programming who can advise you or introduce you to their contacts. In addition, make your online presence stellar; unfortunately some people hold the mistaken presumption that older people can’t use social media so you have to prove them wrong! As expected of this industry, most gaming professionals are active on Linkedin and Twitter so try to make connections through these channels. The great thing about the internet is that it’s equalizer: there are no gatekeepers, and age is not a factor in how well you can make use of it.
Consider the Indie Game Industry
It’s an illogical prejudice but the fact remains: the gaming industry has frequently been accused of ageism. Hopefully this attitude will lessen as companies recognize that hiring older people is the best way to make games that appeal to the increasingly older player demographic, but for now there is no doubt that prejudice exists. If you are encountering barriers, perhaps consider the indie gaming industry. This is where much of the most interesting innovation in gaming is happening and smaller companies may well have more progressive attitudes towards diversity. It’s also now easier and cheaper than ever to make a game yourself. Whether you do it solo or with a small team, making and promoting your game is not only a wonderful creative outlet but a great boost to your resume.
While some things may be more difficult for older adults breaking into the gaming industry, it should be clear that your life experience will give you the edge in other areas. Ageism will only prevail if no one stands up to it, so let’s challenge preconceptions and show people it’s more than possible for older people to have a successful gaming career!
Submitted by Guest Blogger – Jess Walter, Freelance Writer