Help me make my 83 year old gamer mother happy.
April 10, 2010 9:15 AM   Subscribe

My 83 year old mother wants to be able to play computer games and I am not sure what to do. Can you help me help her?

My Mother loves using computers but really only plays games on them. Her old Dell laptop broke. She mentioned getting an Apple Macbook, but I hesitate to do that because she is in a nursing home and stuff can disappear pretty easily.

She loves games. Not shooter games, stuff like chess, sims, puzzles, word games. She likes the thinking stuff. She has no table top or counter space so I am trying to think hand-held. Would Gameboy Advance be good? I am not sure how her eyes are but I know she can do suduko in the newspaper. Is there a Verizon Phone that is particularly good with games? Do I have other options? I know nothing about games so any help is appreciated.

So to simplify: What can I get her to play games on? What games should I get her to start with?
posted by snowjoe to Grab Bag (23 answers total)
What's the price range and what type of games?

If you have money to burn and she likes bejeweled type games, the iPad looks good. You could also get her the DSi XL.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 9:20 AM on April 10, 2010

Get her a 10 inch netbook or an 11 or 12 inch notebook. These can be had, new, for about $400.

And it'll play all the games she got used to on her Dell, which makes it better than, e.g., a GameBoy..
posted by orthogonality at 9:22 AM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

My fear is that anything handheld or iPad-ish is going to get swiped.

Eee PC desktop models have VESA mounts that allow them to be attached directly to the back of most LCD monitors and TVs. If she has an LCD TV in her room with a VGA input, you could set her up with one and a wireless keyboard/mouse and she could play simple PC games on her TV.

Plus it's a computer, so e-mail, etc.
posted by Menthol at 9:26 AM on April 10, 2010

If she is used to using a computer, I'd get her a computer. Learning curves don't really get steeper with age, but the patience to deal with them diminishes (speaking from personal experience here).
posted by Some1 at 9:39 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you do get her a laptop, put some really bright decals or stickers all over the outside, along with her name in huge letters. Maybe that will help make it more visible and less likely to disappear?
posted by CathyG at 9:49 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe a Nintendo DS Lite? You could buy her game cartridges for chess, scrabble, crossword, sudoku, solitaire, bejeweled, tetris, and Brain Age. Get her a brightly colored one (easily found and easily differentiated between the standard black and white versions) and put her name on a sticker on the bottom.
posted by sharkfu at 9:59 AM on April 10, 2010

How big was her old laptop? I don't recommend getting a netbook for an 83-year old--that could just cause more eye strain (and paper isn't the same as screens, besides the size issue). I think a cheap laptop about the same size as her last one is the best way to go especially if you want to avoid the theft issue, for the most part. Even used is fine for those types of games. You can get those portable bed trays quite easily, too. Also agreeing with CathyG on the decal bit.
posted by Ky at 9:59 AM on April 10, 2010

Get her a 10 inch netbook or an 11 or 12 inch notebook. These can be had, new, for about $400.

And it'll play all the games she got used to on her Dell, which makes it better than, e.g., a GameBoy..

Seconding this. A cheap netbook or notebook covered in stickers is probably the way to go. Barring that, a Nintendo DS might be good--for, say $300, you can get one with ten or so games. But she'll be more limited in its use, and if her eyes are bad, it might be difficult for her to see the small screen.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:59 AM on April 10, 2010

The Nintendo DSi XL is probably exactly what you want. It has larger screens and a bigger stylus.
posted by chairface at 10:04 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

A bit off-topic, but if you get her a laptop, install Prey on it with an account that you can help her manage. It's free, consumes very little resources, and may prove to be invaluable if it goes missing.
posted by whatisish at 10:09 AM on April 10, 2010

Strongly seconding the DSi XL. There are plenty of puzzle games for it. The best bang for your buck (if it's still in print) is New York Times Crosswords.
posted by Prospero at 10:15 AM on April 10, 2010

I also suggest the Nintendo DSi XL.

Also, a laptop lock might do the trick for keeping the laptop from going missing.
posted by p1nkdaisy at 10:22 AM on April 10, 2010

DSi XL, yes. Or maybe an iPad? It'll play all the iPhone games and there's a rapidly growing number of iPad games too. (Fastest selling iPad app category, apparently.)
posted by Mwongozi at 10:26 AM on April 10, 2010

i'd stick with stuff she can play over the gives her a bunch of variety, and it's all free...second the netbook idea, and get a lock if security's an issue...

she might like strimko and zilch (a fun dice game you can play with other people online)

set her up with a facebook page, that way she'll always have someone to play scrabble with, and she might get into all that farmville/happy aquarium stuff that seems to be really popular there...
posted by sexyrobot at 10:39 AM on April 10, 2010

Why wasn't the old Dell stolen? Get her another non-stealable computer. It can be old and used and inexpensive. I throw out machines like that all the time because they're too old, but they would be fine for her purposes.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:58 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Whatever you get her, engrave it on the bottom with a dremel. Be bold, the point of engraving is to make it obviously unappealing to a potential thief. Laptop locks are really flimsy, so in addition to a laptop lock, get one that has a base that gets glued on to the laptop, with a loop to run the cable through. Glue another base to the bottom of a table, or whatever. Buy a pretty stencil, and stencil directly onto the case lid. Making a stencil is easy, so you could even stencil her name onto the case. And record the serial number and mac address.

There are so many games for a pc that that's pretty appealing, but my Mac-using friends have Quinn, an excellent free tetris, and they say there's more. Or an iTouch; the apps available are pretty terrific.

Introduce her to the music capabilities of whatever she gets, and get her good speakers, since many older people have poor hearing. Load her up with some of her favorite music. My Mom loved having a boombox and cds of WWII era tunes. And introduce her to free book downloads. Sounds like she might enjoy the classics, and there are many freebies available for out-of-copyright books.

A Wii, with the games, would be a huge hit. My Mom loved plating golf and bowling with her grandkids.

I hope my son is this sweet to me when I'm 83.
posted by theora55 at 10:59 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'll submit another vote for the DSi XL!

My father, who has suffered from Parkinson's, loved his DS. He was starting to have trouble with the stylus and small screen, and BAM! - there was Nintendo to save the day! :)
posted by AloneOssifer at 11:12 AM on April 10, 2010

If you end up getting a MacBook, and she likes Sims games, The Sims 3 came out about a year ago, is readily available for Macs, and is SUPER AWESOME!
posted by ErikaB at 11:23 AM on April 10, 2010

Nthing a notebook computer. She was comfortable with a laptop and this is virtually the same. She can use all of her fingers, not just her thumbs, doesn't have to re-learn and it is nearly the same size. I would get an engraving tool (you can probably borrow one from your local police department) and write, "If your name isn't (her name) you stole this from her!" on the top of the cover. She might find this funny, who knows. Making some pretty flowers (or whatever) in indelible marker on it will also make it less attractive to thieves. You might look to a used computer store for an inexpensive one as she won't care if it has the latest bells and whistles.
posted by Old Geezer at 11:30 AM on April 10, 2010

Dwarf Fortress runs pretty good on the eee pc in Text Mode.

just sayin'.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:53 PM on April 10, 2010

I came in here to suggest the DSi XL, too. Heck, I would have gotten one, too, if I hadn't just gotten myself a DSi to play Dragon Quest 9 on it right before the XL was announced here in Japan. Bigger size, great selection of thinking type games... perfect!
posted by misozaki at 4:17 PM on April 10, 2010

I love the DS, but my 80-year-old grandmother has been playing games on a computer for years, and if it broke down, I'd just replace it with something similar. Too many things the DS can't replicate properly, too many free online gaming sites (shockwave, kongregate, etc). It's a great platform, (and if you get it, seconding NYT crosswords, and recommending the Layton games) but I'd stick with what she knows and loves.

Cheap old laptop or netbook.
posted by graventy at 7:56 PM on April 10, 2010


Thanks for all the help. After reading all of the replies I decided to get her a computer:

It should work out really great. I told her about it and she is really excited. If you would like to suggest any more games for her that would be appreciated.

Ask mefi does it again!
posted by snowjoe at 9:31 PM on April 11, 2010

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