Tobold's Blog
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Games for senior citizens

My father, who is 74 and hasn't played a single computer game in his life (after giving up on an early console that played Pong on our TV), asked me to install him a "computer game" on his PC. He sees how much time I'm spending with games, and wonders if he is missing anything. Okay, kudos to my father for being open-minded. But what game do I know that he could possibly play? My father has a computer, but constantly comes running to me with problems to which the solution usually is that he should have right-clicked instead of left-clicked. Complex games like World of Warcraft are out. And of course he doesn't have a teenager's reflexes, so simple but fast games are out too.

Up to now I came up with Mahjong and Peggle. He didn't want Solitaire or similar card games. Anyone else got a good idea for a PC game for a senior citizen?
Puzzle Quest
Do you think he'd be into puzzle games? I enjoyed Myst and similar puzzle games waaaaaaay back in the day. If I remember correctly, the interfaces were pretty simple and easy to understand. On the other hand, sometimes those games degenerated into "click everything in the zone to see if it does something," which got frustrating for me and I imagine would be even worse for someone just getting used to gaming.
My advice: Emulators.

Set him up with an emulated console like the genesis / snes, and give him a joypad. The games are much simpler than most of todays but are easy to use, losts of fun, and with a joypad, easy to pick up and play.

I did the same with my father, and with my son, when I was introducing him to gaming. And both of them still love those types of games several years later.
Keep it simple, but keep it fun, and before you know it he'll be chasing you into VoA with the biggest sword you;ve ever seen. And yelling "Leeeroy Jenkins!!!!!!!"
Civ 4?

I have always been a fan of the civilization games.
My mother (who is a few years younger) plays a lot of Sudoku on a Nintendo. She tried PC games but these tend to be too complex. Other complaints: goals too vague (what should i do now?), too fiddly to use, too much time needed. She beats me with Sodoku though, by a wide margin. :)
"Complex Games like World of Warcraft are out". Isn't that a major failing of our hobby. There has to be something wrong when the market leading product, which some enthusiasts regularly criticise for being too easy, is still far to complicated for many many people to use.

Given that any PC game will involve a certain amount of painful learning it would probably be a good idea to try and pick a genre that would interest him. Do you think his imagination could be captured by Combat? By Strategy? By Sport? I have a brother in law who is borderline computer illiterate and who has nevertheless become hooked on the complex Total War games because he loves the strategy and historical settings.

Here is one suggestion - Age of Empires, the original one. The game strikes a superb balance between simplicity and depth. The game was also beautifully made with tonnes of historical tit-bits. It should also run on a biscuit tin. I would avoid more recent members of the series until he has learned the basics with the original.

Dungeon siege is another game with a superbly designed interface but your father might find the gameplay a bit tedious.

A good point and click adventure could be ideal but I don't know if they even make those any more.
My mom has been a Snood junkie ever since I got her her first computer several years ago. The first thing she did when she bought a new one was install Snood.
My folks like tetris a lot.
I played Diablo 2 with several people in their seventies a few years back. It started out when someone laughed at a player's age and she pointed out her mum played too. She was 75 and liked to play Barbarians with big axes. She was pretty good too. We played the game hardcore, untwinked.
Civilisation, or something along those lines. Something strategy and turn based. Alternatively, World of Goo.

Whatever you do, don't introduce him to twitter (if he's like my dad, he'll never stop talking on it!)
BEJEWElED. Damn thing is adicting.
I was going to suggest until I saw that he didn't want Solitaire. I'd say try and figure out what he would like. What did he do in his life? Bridge engineer? Install World of Goo. Sales/Marketing/City Planner? Maybe Sim City 2000 or a Civilization would work.
My stepmother is into a jigsaw puzzle game and sudoku online.
/agree with the suggestions of Civ 4 as one possibility, but it depends on how patient he is and how willing to read and comprehend (not a slam, a lot of people simply don't have the patience for that).

Another possibility would be Railroad Tycoon 3 or Sid Meier's alleged sequel, what was it called - Rails? (that latter one is actually a lot more friendly to beginners).
Zuma. I've played this far too much. It does depend on quickness as you progress, however. Computer versions of Boggle, like Word Twist on Facebook, might also work.

You know, a lot of people who define themselves as "gamers" wouldn't even put these in the category of computer games (wrongly). I agree with mbp, it's a major failing of the hobby.
/agree on Civ. The initial limited resources and the tech trees keep the complexity manageable and it doesn't require fast reflexes. But then again, my mom's a Tetris junkie..
Sim City? Always found it to be very user friendly and you can play at your own pace.
You could check the Steam store. It's got a lot of casual games you can easily purchase online.
Try a Turn based strategy game or Spore.
My father has played the Myst/Riven/Exile series, and enjoyed it a lot. I'm sure you can quickly judge whether or not your father would enjoy the atmosphere and gameplay; it tends to be a "love it or hate it" reaction.
I asked around as many of my friends (we are all 55-75 years old) who don't consider themselves "gamers" play PC games such as Bejeweled. Chuzzle (either downloaded or a browser game, I don't know which) got a lot of mention. I think much depends on the other interests of your dad. If he always wanted to be a lawyer, the Phoenix Wright games on the DS would appeal, for example. Why not browse with him and see if he sees anything there he likes?

I've always found the free version of Flow relaxing.

It's not age that matters, it is more the personality of the player that tells you what sort of game will be fun for him/her. You already know he doesn't like complex games that you have to spend a ton of time learning like WOW. There are a lot of emulated text adventure games (visit and start exploring Zork or head to for more recent text adventures) but I personally found the puzzles in these not always easy to crack.

Hopefully you'll find something fun for him to enjoy.
How about 1701 AD? It has beautiful graphics for a strategy title, and the user interface is simple and intuitive so it would be great for someone new to gaming. I hear the series is wildly popular in Germany.
My Dad loves brick-ball games like Arkanoid. On places like RealArcade (or, as other people have suggested, Emulators) you can find many different kinds of games like this.

Or any RTS with a friendly learning curve.

Nothing with too much flash and not FPS games.
I'd avoid emulators, personally. Eventually he'll decide that he knows what he's doing and go looking for another game without your help. Virus city. The goal is not to add to your own headache potential here.

I'd agree with people who mentioned casual games on Steam or PopCap. Those are benign, easy to get, and would probably hold some appeal for him.
You may want to look around your community for a school that teaches folks how to use PC's. Not only will he learn how to use one he may be able to meet other people who game and ask them what they like to play.
sry for the double post..

Possibly grab a scummvm emu and hook him up with Monkey Island or some other classic point and click with a good storyline.
Mhp: Most books would be hard to read to a guy who thinks Dick and Jane is hard. So no, nothing is wrong with the gaming industry when people who can barely operate a mouse can't immediately pick a game designed for veteran gamers and do well, anymore than there's something wrong with literature when a kindergartner can't bust out Moby Dick on the first try.

Bejeweled. Fun, simple, as slow as you want it to be (don't think its timed).
A strategy game where your father could move at his own pace probably wouldn't be bad.

I absolutely love the Monkey Island Series. I think they are quite fun (although it's more difficult to play the early ones with today's technology). A game like that where I have to seek out answers, but at my own pace, and even the "fights" are done with wits and don't require fast reaction times I think would probably fit well with what you are looking for. "How appropriate, you fight like a cow!"

Just my thoughts =)
i was already thinking PEGGLE before I even saw you had it written as one of the last sentences
I think you guys are being way to optimistic about what this guy can handle.

He got frustrated with Pong 30 years ago (PONG for gods sake). He needs technical help with his mouse buttons. He's 74. You slap Monkey Island Adventure or Civ 4 or Railroad Tycoon in front of him, he will get frustrated and quit long before he'd figure out how to play. Gamers have a whole encyclopedia of things they don't even know they know that makes these games comprehensible. To someone who doesn't have that encyclopedia, Popcap's game catalog represents a real challenge.
Why exactly is WoW out? I mean, he doesn't have to raid. There is enough other stuff you can do to pass the time.

The old world is easy enough that you can just whack mobs dead. And the game is lovely designed to hook you up to your characters possibilities. May I suggest something robust, like a paladin?

Actually, it would be interesting to read how he's doing... maybe someone could blog about it. I would certainly love to read that. :-)

Then there is stuff like "Moorhuhn". You need reflexes but you won't die if your slow, just get a lower score. (Or the "Catch The Sperm" series. :-)

Any version of Snake ( can be fun to pass the time. Lemmings? There is a windows version. Tetris, especially the lovely Nyet 3.
Rather than asking what the best game for a senior citizen is you should be asking what is the best game for your father. I think it depends more on personal taste then age.

If your father is more of an engineer type that like understanding and playing with how things work then I'd recommend Civ 4.

For someone who enjoys toying around with virtual social interactions, I'd recommend The Sims.

Arcade style puzzle games like Bejeweled or Tetris are hits among the general population.

In general I've seen many people who have never played any video games in their lives totally love the Nintendo Wii. Specifically Wii Tennis and Wii Golf. The Nintendo Wii is very popular at retirement homes.

I also wouldn't say that a game like World of Warcraft is out. I would think that while it is complex he would enjoy spending the time with his son. Just make sure you get some kind of voice chat setup like skype. You can set it up on his computer first. Or bring your laptop over and play the game sitting next to each other. WoW is too complex for someone like your father to learn on his own, but it's certainly not too complex if you're there explaining stuff the whole time.
I'm having trouble imagining a game for a retired accountant. :)

I know several people who tried WoW and who are either playing only rarely and barely handle the game, or gave up after some time. Someone I know plays 2D MMOs, but can't handle the third dimension. Games like Civilization can be difficult because you need to remember what all your units were up to, and older people's memory might not be up to it. So I think the various Popcap etc. games might be a better introduction to gaming.
We have a guildie who's 72 years old. He has two 80s, two 70s and a smattering of other characters. He seems to have a lot of fun playing them.

Now in groups.. he has the lowest dps and is easily confused by too many instructions... but he -is- raiding Naxx and still seems to have a lot of fun.

If you are able to help him over the initial hurdle of navigating the interface, then a 4X game such as Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri or Galactic Civilizations II obviously has a lot of depth of game-play that doesn't require twitch based skills, which may be an advantage.

Perhaps Darwinia if he's amenable to a more real-time strategy game.

My grandfather (when he was alive) played the old NES Tetris endlessly. It's straightforward but engaging at the same time.
I installed the Hoyle games for both my parents on their computers. Hoyle Card Games, Hoyle Casino Game and Hoyle Puzzle Games. I realize your father might not like card games, but the casino games let you smack one of the computer players in the face. My father loves it, because they talk to you and make comments on how you play and you can hit them to let the frustration out. Of course, if you don't know how to play any of the poker, hearts, cribbage and such, might be a bit difficult. The Hoyle Puzzle Games is pretty nice too, lots of good puzzle games.
I'd suggest some of the 2008 winners at

They're the kind of games he can try and decide if he likes it in ~5 minutes, then try another one.
"We have a guildie who's 72 years old. He has two 80s, two 70s and a smattering of other characters. He seems to have a lot of fun playing them.

Now in groups.. he has the lowest dps and is easily confused by too many instructions... but he -is- raiding Naxx and still seems to have a lot of fun."

That's great in a lot of ways, but the part of my brain that is hardcore just started crying and threatening to slash its wrists with razor blades if I ever go back to WoW.
Phoenix Wright, maybe King's Quest or something. Just be sure to show him where GameFaqs is.

My mom (not up to 70s yet) plays WoW, she spends 2-3 hours doing dailies and outside of that, has trouble doing a fair amount of the quest content and dungeons that a player would be doing at the high end. Do you really want to send a person new to gaming to the general WoW populace? It won't be pretty.
My grandfather likes to play a Scrabble game I bought him a few years ago.
I belong to a guild in Age of Conan run by a 70 year old. So, I have to agree with a previous commenter...why is WoW out?

Gage his skill first on the PC, THEN you can decide if WoW is too much. Can he play Solitaire? Does he right click to get the Ace up to the main stack? Or does he double click...little clues like that can help.

The first 10 levels of WoW is so simplistic it plays I suggest not writing off the old man that way, and see if he CAN play WoW.

Good luck
Did your guild leader pick up AOC as the first video game had played since Jimmy Carter was in office?

Probably not. It's not that everyone over the age of 70 can't play video games, its that this particular dude doesn't know anything about video games and has very very basic computer skills. He could be 30 or 5, still wouldn't be a good idea to toss him into the deep end of the pool and expect him to swim.
Check out My inlaws play a variety of games on Pogo. Some of them aren't free. But I think most have demos. Find a few he likes, if need be buy the non-free ones.
Definitely Sims 2 (or 3 when it comes out). Basic point and click interface, easy to understand game mechanics, and you almost have to try to actually "lose".
World of Goo would be my recommendation; simple interface, and not always requiring quick reflexes (but occasionally rewarding them).
Sign him up for a gaming site, my Mother spends hours on Pogo. She like the games and chatting with people.
I suggest King's Bounty, unless he has trouble reading smaller text.
Chess and Go would be good board games that you can also play on a computer (against a computer or over the internet, which ever you'd prefer). Civilization type of games are nice, though I didn't like civilizations after civ 2 cus they tended to get a bit complex for me (hard to figure out without a tutorial so I just didn't play them). So if you plan on going the civ way, go for civ 1 or 2. Nice thing about older folk playing their first games is that they tend to actually focus on the important, not on the graphics :).

I was trying to look around but didn't see it, but you could try these two games also. Frets of fire (I think it was called). Kinda like guitar hero but you play with your keyboard (great for activating brains and to help you keep your fingers active) and Sims (You can pause the game at any point so it's practically a turn based game if you want it to be). My mother enjoyed sims a great deal atleast, though she's only like 55.
Agree with the World of Goo idea. Amazing game. I would also suggest a game I have discovered recently: "the Ancient Quest for Saqqara". It's a fantastic and hypnotizing variation on the Bejewel theme.

Might I recommend this:

Panzer General

It's an oldie but my dad loves it. It's also free ;)
Arcade-type games are a great place to start, although some simple puzzle games he might find enjoyable. I have an elder relative who used to love a game called Treasure Cove. Treasure Mountain is a similar game, but it's not underwater. that's a video of Treasure Mountain. It's too late for me to look up a place you could actually get the game, but I will try if you'd like me to. Other than those two games the only games she would play were Hoyle Classic Card Games, so it sounds as if they may be in the same boat. Oh, I guess she played Load Runner too, another INCREDIBLE classic.

Those should be good games to start with, but I don't know if they'll be his thing, or if you will even be able to find ones that run on XP. I think Load Runner may even be mac-only. Hopefully this was helpful :) (My Father loves Panzer General as well, but he's played WoW some (although he's a little slow to keep up in instances) so it may be a bit complex for a first game, although I wouldn't know since I've never tried my hand at it myself)
I might suggest Crayon Physics. A lot like World of Goo, with a pretty straightforward gameplay.
Maybe consider starting him out with a Nintendo DS or a Wii? The control systems are a lot more intuitive. A lot of the games are definitely aimed directly at casual or new players. Maybe games like Civilization on the PC?

I would really try and get him into WoW. I think a lot of the value for people is the community and social interaction. Only once he's a bit more comfortable with tech though. Take it slow, as long as he's having fun and enjoying things, let him keep doing it, even if it's just playing solitaire.
The only game I can let my father play is tetris.

Besides that, games where can think before doing are good. Building sims are great. Think Rollercoaster Tycoon (who doesn't love that game?). Adventures are also good as they give you time to think. The broken sword series would be a good start.
I work with many seniors. The problem with learning the mouse is often made worse by a mouse with a wheel, new learners seem to want to hit the center of the mouse and can't grasp the uses of the three "buttons". So no wheel if you can help it. I'd recommend games for your dad that reflect his real world interests. If nothing seems to match, maybe a point and click mystery series such as the Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie would be a good introduction to games/puzzles and storylines that can be done at the player's own pace.

The DS with its easy to use stylus is a good bet, try something like Professor Layton or Brain Age or even Yoshi's Island or Mario for a nice introduction to gaming.

The Wii is also a good place to introduce a new gamer because anyone can wave those controllers in the air and fine tune their movements pretty quickly. This has the multi-player advantage built in and just the experience of playing alongside of you could be priceless. The sports and racing games are good bets for starter players.
I still love to grab a game or two of minesweeper... or is he looking for something RPGish? With people he can interact with?

Maybe Myst?
If your father is in good health, it's much more probable that he asks for your help not because he is unable to get around problems himself, but to get you to spend time with him. :) I know this from personal experience. That being said, one of the more dedicated players in a WoW guild I've joined some time ago was 60+ and, after the initial "shock", asked around and mananged to reach lvl 80 with no problems, running heroics and all.
Try a first person shooter. Unless he dislikes the topic and brutality these games are extremely easy to play against computer opponents (assuming you set the difficulty slider to the very easiest :).

Just because he is old doesn't mean he only likes games for children ...
My mom's in her late 60s. She has a subscription to and loves it. They have a broad selection of fun little games, including a lot of puzzle games that don't require fast-twitch reflexes.
Warcraft I or II, or Starcraft? Probably still too complicated. =/

There's a fun rpg that I played when I was younger that was turn based, basic graphics, but a lot of fun, called Avernum. Made by a guy running his own business with 2 other people I believe now, He's got a few other games that are similarly well done, just short on the graphics (probably good in this situation). Plus they have large free demos.
My grandma likes the word worm or something - anything that makes you make words out of random letters. I got my dad ( who wasn't as old as yours) a train similator because he like trains, maybe see if there are games that related to some real life hobbies your dad liked.
My grandparents are addicted to flash games - most of which are on It has a little of everything so there's a game for whatever mood you happen to be in.
OMG Snood hands down. You can spend HOURS playing Snood. it's what I used to play (for hours at a time) before I discovered WoW. It's like any really great game; super easy to learn, but a lifetime to master.
Consider just letting him loose on Kongregate. He'll find something he likes on there.
This is an old subject, so probably nobody read the comment.

I've just overviewed other comments, so I don't know all the suggestions other people have made.

I think that a game like Sim City could be a good beginning. It is not a hard game and you could say that it defines a entire genre itself, so it is not really needed to know similar games to play with it.
OMG..have played wow for 4 years, have several lvl 80 tunes, a few 70s and a smattering of lower levels.
Now playing Aion, hav a lvl 32, and a lvl 28. I am having a blast, using Ventrilo, in a guild, and love doing instances. I am 67 years old. You youngsters cant have all the fun. Wish there was a website for more mature players lol.Have a few friends my age that play also and we do quite well.
A good place to start might be, a set of 30 flash games that are extremely flexible and accessible. The speed of all 30 games can be adjusted with just one control. Game objects are large and easy to click.
Faunasphere. It is easy enough for a four year old but richly layered and entertaining enough for gently-raised computer professionals. :(
Here's one way to find out:

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast are
conducting a study to investigate user experience during puzzle games. To this end they
have developed an iPhone / iPod Touch application named 'Brain Jog'. It’s the first step in a
larger study which will investigate how effective so called ‘brain training’ apps can be in
preventing cognitive decline / dementia.
There are few classic games for senior citizens - Solitaire, Bejeweled, JSPuzzles, Tetris and of course, the best of all - Sudoku!
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