Introducing Player Profiles, a journey through the diversity of gaming.
Mandy Dee is a retired science technician and mother of two, who has kept games part of her life since the very beginning of home gaming.
“I was part of the first generation to have home computers and video games,” said Mandy. “My family had a BBC Micro, and I laboriously typed in the code from BEEBUG magazines to play simple games. We also had a simple games console for the TV which had basic games such as tennis, breakout and the like. It was all very new and exciting.
“15 years or so later when my children were young and playing Pokémon, I’d occasionally manage to play a game when they weren’t using it! Despite being a busy working mother, I still tried to find time to play games whenever I could. I’ve always loved the challenge.”
As a mature female, it makes me feel less out of place when I see main characters that I can relate to. Not just as mothers or teachers, but as trainers and gym leaders.Mandy Dee
Technology insights company GWI released a report that showed the largest growth in gaming audiences between 2018 and 2020 was in the 55-64 age group.
Despite this, there’s still a pervasive stereotype of a “gamer” being a young man. “At 56 I am older than the majority of gamers, and I think that older gamers are mostly male. None of my peers play games apart from phone games to my knowledge. I am, however, intelligent and geeky (or is it nerdy?), so if I was younger, I think I would be a better fit for gaming stereotypes,” laments Mandy, who maybe isn’t quite as unusual as media stereotypes make her feel.
Some progress is being made with representation in games at least. Indie games lead the charge, but triple-A games are getting there. Mandy said that this helps her feel less like she doesn’t belong: “I was pleased to see in Pokémon Scarlet that the NPCs were of all ages and body types.
“As a mature female, it makes me feel less out of place when I see main characters that I can relate to. Not just as mothers or teachers, but as trainers and gym leaders.” This kind of depiction of diversity is important to all kinds of minorities. A sense of belonging is something we all need.
What is the BBC Micro?
In the 1980s, home computers were just beginning to gain traction. The BBC saw how important computer literacy was going to become and created a new scheme called The BBC Computer Literacy Project. It consisted of a TV show with BBC presenter Chris Serle called The Computer Programme, and the BBC Micro, a home PC designed by Acorn with education in mind. It has been reported that as many as 80% of British schools in the 80s had a BBC Micro.
When the Micro was released, it was affectionately known as ‘The Beeb’ and demand far out-stripped supply due to its popularity. It was praised as being “no-compromise” and being useful far beyond its original purpose of learning computing. Its popularity was only increased by Acorn’s decision to make it compatible with multiple programming languages, not just BASIC.
There is a complete archive of the games that the Micro offered at bbcmicro.co.uk and are worth checking out.
Unfortunately, the hostility of many gamers towards other gamers that don’t look like them is well documented. Sexism is an especially prevalent problem, and it means that a lot of people focus on solo gaming, forgoing the opportunity to connect with others. “I don’t have online access on the Switch, because I don’t have anyone I’d play with,” says Mandy, “I would if I could, if my friends played.”
Luckily, Mandy hasn’t faced these issues herself, most likely due to playing offline. “Persuading my husband that two hours playing a game is no more a waste of time than 2 hours watching a TV show” is the thing that has challenged her the most. That is a common issue with older people – the perception that gaming is for children and inherently more a waste of leisure time than other similar pursuits.
Despite the growth reported in older gamers, it’s clear that more could be done to introduce the hobby to a wider audience. Mandy says that she often struggles to choose new games and turns to her children for recommendations. She does not feel like she is being well-served by gaming ads. “I see very few adverts for video games, and those I do see are mainly for high-powered action games which are not my thing. I feel the advertising is not targeted at me. I think that women my age don’t know that there are pleasant, relaxing, fun, and attractive games out there. However, they all spend hours on Candy Crush and the like.
“I am sure that games are marketed very tactically towards the largest audience. But games such as Animal Crossing, or The Sims, would appeal to older women who haven’t played quality video games before.”
Looking to the future, Mandy thinks that using phones as a springboard to gaming console ownership could be one way to encourage people of her generation to investigate gaming further.
“I think that gentle games, maybe including relaxing music, mindfulness opportunities, simple challenges, collections, and opportunities to create, could easily be marketed as being beneficial to mental health and general well-being, particularly to those who are housebound due to age or ill health.
“There are millions of people struggling with ME/CFS like myself, long Covid, other long-term health conditions, or who are physically disabled, who would benefit from time spent in a virtual world where they can relax and enjoy positive experiences.
“As far as my own age group is concerned, they are generally not owners of gaming machines, and often not even computers or laptops. They mainly use phones and tablets. Free taster games on these platforms which could then be used as adverts for the main games on more expensive platforms might encourage more people to invest.”
It wouldn’t be an interview with a gamer without finding out what game occupies the number one spot, and for Mandy, it’s a game that brings together many of the parts of gaming she enjoys.
“I don’t enjoy violent games, and although I have played racing games, the older I get the more I prefer gentler games. Pokémon games have been great favourites. I like collections to complete and enjoy exploring.
“I have played some Final Fantasy games and enjoy the graphics and storyline. Recently I have enjoyed Animal Crossing and was blown away by Breath of the Wild. That is now my all-time favourite, due to the fun of exploring the open world, the stunning graphics, the collecting aspect, and the horses!”