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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 December, 2003, 01:04 GMT
'Gaming is not just for grandchildren'
Gaming is no longer just the preserve of pale teenagers, with significant numbers of the older generation are taking control of the gamepad. 56-year-old grandmother Martha Buckley explains how she become a "grey gamer".

Barbara Flynn with her GameBoy
Barbara Flynn's sore thumbs were nothing to do with age
I first started playing Tetris on the GameBoy around 1993 when I went round to see my grandsons.

They had GameBoys which I used to have a go on every time I went round.

I used to play Super Mario and Crash Bandicoot with them, although Jake was always saying things like "I'll get you through this bit Grandma," when I wanted to do it myself.

One day Jake said, "Would you like to borrow it Grandma?". So I did, along with Tetris, which I think was the new Christmas game at the time.

I ended up keeping it because one of the boys got a new one.

I soon found it became really quite addictive. I just had to keep trying to get through the levels.

I liked it because Tetris was not a violent game. It was not about killing, it was about slotting the shapes into place and trying to go up a level.

I found I would start playing, and before I knew it, four hours had gone by because I kept thinking I would just do one more level before I put it down.

It is very different from using a PC, which I was also learning to do around the same time.

Aching fingers

After I while I started having a problem with my thumb.

I did not really associate it with the game, I just thought it might be arthritis, just something to do with getting older.

But it did not seem to be getting any better, so eventually I decided I had better go to the doctor to see if they could do anything about it.

It has been great for me because not only do I really enjoy it, it has also given me something to talk to my grandchildren about
They gave me some blood tests, which all came back negative and the doctor asked me what I had been doing with my left hand.

I was at college at the time so I was typing up my essays, but I am not very good at that and only use a few fingers on my left hand.

So I knew it was not that.

Then I suddenly thought about the GameBoy that I had been playing and the doctor more or less immediately said, "That's it."

It turned out I had some kind of repetitive strain injury.

He had a good laugh about it and said perhaps I should not play it quite so often.

I do not know how common it is to have that kind of injury from it, but my children and grandchildren all thought it was hilarious.

Good for you

I do think gaming is something the whole family can get involved in, and it is also a good thing for older people to get into.

Tetris game
A lot of older players prefer 'thinking' games
It has been great for me because not only do I really enjoy it, it has also given me something to talk to my grandchildren about.

The only trouble is the kids are always really good at the games. Even when they were only about four they would still be on difficult level 20 when I was on easy level three.

I suppose gaming could become isolating for an older person if they took it to extremes, but I think it depends how much you are playing it.

But it would be good if manufacturers marketed more games aimed at older people.

I would particularly like to see more non-violent games, because I do not really like any of the violent ones.

I probably was playing it a bit too often at one point but it is like everything else in life, you have to have a balance.

Even chocolate is alright, so long as you do not sit every night eating boxes and boxes of it.

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