The University of Texas (go Longhorns) is designing games and researching their effect on older players, according to Yahoo! News. The University of Virginia (go Cavaliers) questions the Texas goal of maintaining mental and physical agility with games.
The image of older gamers flailing around with touch-sensitive gloves and VR helmets is our favorite detail of the $13-million project. The future has never been so retro. Mihai Nadin, the professor who heads the research says, "This is not a marketing opportunity but a social responsibility."
But we think it should be a social responsibility and a marketing opportunity. After all, the article makes the obligatory Brain Age reference, citing sales of roughly seven million total copies. Those weren't just given away. Publishers of casual games have already been selling to this older demographic; we don't think it'll take long for other games to reach an older audience.
Dr. Nadin followed up with us about this post. He wanted to make sure readers understand that the University of Virginia study wasn't a response to his research with the University of Texas. The Virginia study was unrelated, although its subject of mind-maintenance through aging is relevant, which is why we mentioned it.
Dr. Nadin further stressed the social responsibility of finding ways to extend mental and physical abilities -- the cost of assisted living strains individuals and government programs. But he also said that people don't need to choose social responsibility over commerce; they can go together. We were raising the point that any business -- especially franchise-driven videogames -- follows the money. We hope he's right, and publishers find a niche in games-as-therapy.
[Update 1: Added last two paragraphs.]