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Seniors awaken at the joysticks

For six years now, la Gaîté lyrique has been offering seniors practical videogame workshops. Dive into the heart of “Game Older” in the company of its enthusiastic participants.

It’s 2pm on this Thursday in Spring; la Gaîté lyrique opens its doors and welcomes, like it does every day, tens of visitors who come to explore the innumerable resources dedicated to the digital culture with which the institution of the Paris Mayor’s Office, located ten minutes’ walk from the Centre Pompidou, is teeming. A pioneer in the subject, it constantly seeks to attract increasingly eclectic people.

That day, on the first floor, Théo Kuperholc is waiting for four atypical guests. A young facilitator and  documentarist of the videogame space, he presents “Game Older” on a weekly basis, a free workshop with the objective of supporting  seniors in discovering this “new” medium (1).

While they have pedagogical intentions, these weekly sessions, which mix game history, glossary and practice, move as far away as possible from scholarly hypothetico-deductivist methods toward intuitive intelligence through experimentation, failure, and autonomy.

Unhindered, gradual learning

“Participants often begin their relationship with games convinced that they do not know how or they’ll be terrible,” explains Théo. “They soon understand through practice that using a joystick is no more complicated than using a TV remote control.”

Far from the clichés surrounding videogames — often seen as a violent pastime, mindless, or reserved for teenagers — “Game Older” positions itself as an inhalation where learning about things digital is progressive and without constraint.

This happens naturally via a highly editorialized selection of games presented in the space, as the facilitator explains: “We try to choose games that stick to the high points of la Gaîté lyrique, like our expo themes, as with the rest of the resource centre. Among the high points, we select games from monitoring that we conduct all year.”

“I’m stuck but I’ll get there”

Monument Valley, Fotonica, Back to Bed: amongst all the titles installed on the different terminals that day, all have an artistic perspective or innovative engineering that make them more than simple recreational software. In “Game Older”, seniors awaken.

“We make no value judgements when selecting the games presented but we want to promote people’s discovery of new visions of videogames. We emphasize innovative games that offer something original,” explains Théo.

“This one is great, it’s logical art; I spent my last three sessions playing it,” explains one senior who is visibly excited by Echochrome II, a game of thinking and enigmas where the player must use a source of light to trace a path of shadows in a graphic world that is greatly inspired by artist Maurits Cornelis Escher. “I’m stuck but I’ll get there,” says another woman, supported by a third woman who gives her some tips without revealing the solution.

Accrued skills

In this “good child” ambiance, the participants —this group happens to be 100% female — seem to have learned to get to know each other and like each other through the prism of video games and the challenges they present. “I don’t feel old but I really see through videogames that my generation and that of my children do not at all think the same way,” explained another “old gamer” some years ago.

For sure, her assiduousness at the workshop changed circumstances because  science has demonstrated several times that playing videogames  can build visual aptitude and increase grey matter.

As to the future of this initiative, Théo says he’s enthusiastic: “We’re mostly studying videogames but also board games and smartphone and tablet applications, often based on the field trip calendar. Naturally, over time it will be less about groups distanced from videogames because of their age and more about those who are culturally isolated. In the future, we will probably think about few generational workshops with a more mixed group.”.

A great intention already tried out in 2016 on the occasion of a “Game Older” tournament that allowed this pastime to be shared with the youngest.

(1) “Game Older” workshops are organized every Thursday from 2pm to 4pm at la Gaité lyrique. Information and registration: https://gaite-lyrique.net/atelier/game-older

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