Smashing another stereotype — that gamers are overwhelmingly male — the AARP/ESA survey revealed that gamers age 50+ are more likely to be women than men. Not only that, the study disclosed, but more women report playing games on a daily basis than do their male counterparts, and they play more online today than they did five years ago.

With nearly 1.2 million unique visitors playing games such as Tumble Tiles and Sling Shock on its website every month, AARP already had a toe — possibly an entire foot — in this water. Yet CEO Jenkins senses the medium can do more: “The games we offer on aarp.org are geared toward one player,” she points out, “but we want to help gamers develop online connections that combat isolation — one of the major challenges to successful aging.”

Might GameJam’s winning concept fill that bill? “Signs point to yes,” as your Magic 8 Ball always said; in addition to their prize money, the “Letters of Mystery” team snagged three coaching sessions from professional software developers. And as ESA Senior Vice President Erik Huey handed the winners an outsize cardboard check for $10,000, a familiar voice piped up from a bar stool in the wings: “Good luck getting that through the drive-in at the bank!”

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