Video games: An Interesting New Outlet for Mentoring

May 13, 2013 by Bob Stephen (posted in AARP)

Wizard 101 by Kingsisle helps older players mentor younger ones.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve written about the gaming study by Dr. Jennifer Jacobs Henderson, associate professor and department chair, and Dr. Aaron Delwiche, associate professor, of the Department of Communication at Trinity University. For the final installment in this series, I want to focus on a very interesting insight from Drs. Henderson and Delwiche — many older gamers really like the mentoring aspect of multiplayer online games. It’s not about the competition but about helping others.

As we at AARP have introduced the concept of Real Possibilities, we are also introducing a powerfully new idea, Life Reimagined. These ideas recognize that for most of us we’re just starting to get going as we get older and we have talents and interests we can build on, whether at work or in other settings. For the players identified in the study, many are able to use their talents and interests in a new setting, helping others — often younger players — succeed.

As with past blogs, the players’ quotes sum the concept up best.

  • “Wizard101 brings people together from all over and teaches others you are not alone, and if you do good here it is OK, and if you make an oops playing, it is OK too … we are all human and we all make dumb moves and forget to do things, but we do good too and helping others when in need of help in turn they will help you when needed when they can. — 50-year-old woman who plays more than 50 hours per week.
  • “I have helped several young people, and have tried to set a good example for them. I like the fact, also, that you can play with all different age groups, and that we learn from each other.”  — 65-year-old woman who plays on average 34 hours per week.
  • “A lot of the quests require teamwork and I enjoy helping the younger players develop their teamwork.”           — 57-year old man who plays more than 65 hours per week.

Not only are these quotes great at showcasing the idea of mentoring but they also turn a common stereotype on its head. When technology or gaming typically comes up, the assumption is usually one of younger generations helping older generations. While this does happen, these quotes — and the study overall — show that it goes the other way, too, and involves learning not just technology but life skills. I would like to make one final ask for your stories — what examples do you have about mentoring in Wizard101 or other games?  Do you have other examples of powerful benefits of gaming?  We’d love to hear them!