The DreamHack Festival in Sweden isn’t an event you would associate with retirees. Yet, in 2017 a team known as the Silver Snipers entered the arena and proved that frenetic shooter games such as Counter-Strike have no age barrier.
Counter-Strike may seem like a strange game for the more mature crowd – the shooter game launched in 1999 and pits terrorists and counterterrorism teams against one another in a hyper-violent struggle for supremacy. Although it’s one of the grandaddies of the genre, such games historically attract grandchildren, but not grandparents – a fact that may be inhibiting the growth and viewership of professional gaming.
Commonly known as eSports, this slice of the entertainment industry has experienced prolific gains in recent years, but with an audience that skews young, it has struggled to develop a broader appeal. Tech giant Lenovo decided to challenge this trend with Counter-Strike, and that’s where the Silver Snipers entered the picture.
The successful applicants to the team’s advertisement ranged from 62-year-old Monica Idenfors (aka “Teen Slayer”) to 81-year-old Bertil Englund (aka “Berra Bang”), who underwent a crash course in ambushes, covering fire and sowing confusion among the opposition. What the team lacked in gaming experience they made up for with zeal and intensity. “They actually were really passionate about it,” says Tommy “Potti” Ingemarsson, the Counter-Strike legend and 10-time winner of the world championship, who signed on to be the team’s manager.
The Silver Snipers brought over 300 years of collective life experience to the table, but with only three weeks of training under their belts, their tournament performance was predestined. They lost both of their matches against far more experienced opponents, but were able to walk away with their heads held high. In fact, they did manage to win a round in the contest, and Wanja Godänge (aka “Knitting Knight”) scored a trio of clean high-profile kills.
It looks like their performance may be slowly changing the conversation. The response from the wider community was warm and positive, and Lenovo reported an uptick in seniors interested in joining the team. The results were also encouraging for Ingemarsson, who is now planning on offering weekly training sessions for interested seniors.
Like a latter-day Wild Bunch, the Silver Snipers refuse to go down without a fight. They’ve already developed a regular training schedule for 2018, and are currently looking at the possibility of adding more games to their repertoire. The team also claims that they are reaping benefits from gaming that are helping them in other areas of life, including hobbies such as mah-jongg and solitaire.
Science suggests that the upside may extend far beyond this. Experiments have shown that video games help improve memory, ability to multitask and reaction time. Through processing of visual information and making connections onscreen, games exercise the mind – and a workout where we never need to leave the sofa is something we can all get behind.