Shoot-em-up seniors find amusement at arcades

Shoot-em-up seniors find amusement at arcades
Retiree Mr George Gan with his collection of cards from the Animal Kaiser game. He spents $10,000 over the last four years playing the arcade game but has recouped at least half of his cost by selling cards that come from the game.

SINGAPORE - Three times a week, 64-year- old cleaner Jenny Lua tries to catch a golden lobster, causing gold coins to explode over her screen - and looks of jealousy to appear on the faces of the seniors sitting around her.

Amusement arcades full of computer games were once the place to hang out for teenagers skipping school, but now they are attracting a new - and older - generation of thrill-seekers.

"This beats staring at the four walls at home," said Ms Lua in Mandarin. "It's so exciting. We old folk need an interesting way to pass time."

She visits arcades with her husband to play Fish Hunter, spending two to three hours on the game each time. Fifty dollars worth of value on their arcade card can last them one visit and, occasionally, two.

Fish Hunter is currently the favoured game among the Friday evening crowd at the Virtualand arcade in Serangoon's nex mall.

Dozens of senior citizens and housewives crowd around the machines, which are about half the size of billiard tables.

Six can play Fish Hunter at any one time. They use guns to fire bullets at fish, squid and turtles that swim from one corner of the tabletop screen to another.

The prized catch is the golden lobster. Whoops of joy coming from a table suggest one has just been blasted.

Some seniors prefer to sit alone at quieter Fish Hunter machines, though they are no less absorbed.

"You can even exchange your game points for FairPrice and Sheng Siong vouchers," said Ms Lua. "Sometimes, we make new friends while playing the game."

Though many games are available free on gadgets like the iPad, they hold little appeal to the likes of Ms Lua. "These high-tech things are for young people, not for us," she said.

Arcade operators told The Straits Times they are seeing more seniors and families now, compared with a decade ago.

This is the case for Timezone, which has 13 branches in Singapore. It has been including more senior-friendly games and rides, and is planning to expand one of its popular outlets to include more family-friendly games later this year.

Another chain, Virtualand, barely saw a senior in its arcades a decade ago. Now, they make up 20 per cent of the crowd at its eight outlets. Zone X also sees older gamers in its arcades.

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