Earlier this year, Monica Idenfors stumbled upon a strange ad. It was a call for seniors interested in joining an e-sports team, with the goal of competing in a Counter Strike tournament at the Dreamhack digital festival in Sweden. As a recent retiree, Idenfors thought it sounded like an “exciting opportunity,” and a good way to spend her newfound free time. She signed up, and eventually joined as one of five members of a new squad cleverly named the Silver Snipers.
At 62-years-old, she was the youngest member of the team, but all the members had something in common beyond their age: none had ever played Counter Strike before. Once they started training, they had just three weeks to prepare for a tournament where they’d go up against players with years of experience.
Sponsored by Lenovo, the Silver Snipers were assembled with the explicit goal of broadening the audience of e-sports, which typically skews quite young. The team is coached by former Counter Strike pro Tommy “Potti” Ingemarsson who, since retiring from playing, has started working as a manager. Most recently, he’s been mentoring students and other newcomers to the world of competitive gaming. The Silver Snipers presented an opportunity to take that concept even further, with a brand new demographic. “We want everyone to be involved,” Ingemarsson says.
But first came the training. Three weeks isn’t much time for anyone to prepare for a tournament, let alone complete newcomers who had little experience with video games before. Ingemarsson describes the practices as “very intensive.” Before getting into strategies, he first had to teach the group the basics, like how to adjust settings, how to properly aim, recognizing who is actually your opponent, and more.
But the group — who range in age from 62 to 81 — took things very seriously during their regular sessions at the Inferno Online gaming center in Stockholm. Team members would regularly come into the center with a list of questions for their coach, and one even printed up the CS:GO keyboard layout, and brought copies to share with his teammates so they could all memorize the game’s controls. “They actually were really passionate about it,” says Ingemarsson. They even came up with clever gamer nicknames. 63-year-old Wanja Godänge became “Knitting Knight,” while 81-year-old Bertil Englund went by the moniker “Berra-Bang.” As the baby of the group, Idenfors decided to go by “Teen Slayer.”
As a hardcore, violent first-person shooter, Counter Strike might seem like a strange choice to indoctrinate people to e-sports, but Ingemarsson believes it’s much more straightforward than other popular competitive games like Overwatch or League of Legends. “It’s classified as a hardcore game,” he says, “but if you look at the top e-sports games, I think Counter Strike is the easiest one to get to know and understand the basics.”
Despite all of their enthusiasm, the tournament didn’t go so well. Up against teams with significantly more experience, the Silver Snipers lost both of their matches, though they did manage to win a round. “Knitting Knight” even scored a trio of headshots in one match. But the results were still positive. Idenfors says that the response from the gaming community was “so positive and warm,” while Lenovo claims it has received an uptick in seniors interested in joining the squad. Even Idenfors’ husband has said he wants to try his hand at Counter Strike now. Following the team’s relatively successful debut, Ingemarsson is planning to start offering free weekly lessons at Inferno Online for interested seniors.
As for the Silver Snipers, the plan is to get more serious. The team is in the process of organizing a more regular training schedule for 2018, and potentially moving into different games in the future. Idenfors says that taking a chance on that strange ad has helped her improve at some of her other hobbies, her training allowed her to develop new strategies for solitaire and mahjong. And learning how to pull off headshots in Counter Strike has also helped her relax. “I have days when I’m frustrated or anxious, but when I’m gaming it helps,” she says. “I feel good after.”