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Digital Game Design for Elderly Users

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The current paper reviews and discusses digital game design for elderly users. The aim of the paper is to look beyond the traditional perspective of usability requirements imposed by age-related functional limitations, towards the design opportunities that exist to create digital games that will offer engaging content combined with an interface that seniors can easily and pleasurably use. Keywords Digital game design, elderly users, social and cognitive benefits of games, review.
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Digital Game Design for Elderly Users
Wijnand IJsselsteijn
Eindhoven University of Technology
Game Experience Lab, HTI Group
Den Dolech 2, 5600 MB, Eindhoven
The Netherlands
w.a.ijsselsteijn@tue.nl
Henk Herman Nap
Eindhoven University of Technology
Game Experience Lab, HTI Group
Den Dolech 2, 5600 MB, Eindhoven
The Netherlands
h.h.nap@tue.nl
Karolien Poels
Eindhoven University of Technology
Game Experience Lab, HTI Group
Den Dolech 2, 5600 MB, Eindhoven
The Netherlands
k.poels@tue.nl
Yvonne de Kort
Eindhoven University of Technology
Game Experience Lab, HTI Group
Den Dolech 2, 5600 MB, Eindhoven
The Netherlands
y.a.w.d.kort@tue.nl
ABSTRACT
The current paper reviews and discusses digital game design for
elderly users. The aim of the paper is to look beyond the
traditional perspective of usability requirements imposed by age-
related functional limitations, towards the design opportunities
that exist to create digital games that will offer engaging content
combined with an interface that seniors can easily and pleasurably
use.
Categories and Subject Descriptors
[J.4 SOCIAL AND BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES]
General Terms
Design, Human Factors
Keywords
Digital game design, elderly users, social and cognitive benefits
of games, review.
1. INTRODUCTION
"I´m growing older, but not up." - Jimmy Buffett
There are compelling social and financial reasons why game
developers should think seriously about making their games
interesting and accessible to elderly users. Digital games hold a
significant promise for enhancing the lives of seniors, potentially
improving their mental and physical wellbeing, enhancing their
social connectedness, and generally offering an enjoyable way of
spending time. From a commercial point of view, elderly users
are potentially a very large customer base. Worldwide, the
population is ageing rapidly, and this is particularly true for
Europe, where the proportion of seniors is dramatically on the rise
[33]. However, the growing 65+ demographic is currently not
well served by the majority of commercial games on the market,
creating a significant potential niche market for game developers.
In this paper, we discuss a number of demographic characteristics
and age-related sensory, cognitive and motor properties that may
influence the senior’s experience of interacting with digital
games. To date, the interface design community has focused
primarily on the design requirements that make interactive
applications, including digital games, usable for elderly users.
Indeed, usability is a sine qua non, and usability issues can be a
serious showstopper to user acceptance. However, usability in
itself is not a sufficient motivation to use software. What is
important to realize is that game design for elderly users should
not only focus on usability issues, but should also seriously
investigate the motivations of seniors to engage with new
technology. A perceived lack of benefits may be more detrimental
to the adoption of digital games, than perceived costs associated
with usability problems. We need to design for rich and rewarding
experiences, combining low-threshold interaction styles with
content that will directly speak to and engage elderly users.
2. ELDERLY GAMERS
By the year 2020, one in four of the European population will be
aged over 60, and the largest increase is expected in the oldest age
groups (75+). Although quite a bit of demographic data is
available on gamers below 65 years of age, relatively little is
known for people over 65. Recent research, commissioned by the
BBC, shows that people over 65 watch more TV than other age
groups, and are also the most likely to cite TV viewing as their
favorite activity. Of all age groups they are least likely to be using
the internet. If they do use it, it is mostly for practical purposes -
travel, finance, education and shopping. However, over a third of
pensioners state that they like to keep up with new technology.
It is hard to find reliable numbers that adequately characterize the
adoption and use of digital games amongst seniors. A review of
pioneering research in this area [35] showed that a majority of
elderly users were interested to engage in playing digital games
when they were offered the opportunity through organizational
stimulation or study programs, and that such gameplay could
yield several benefits, ranging from improvements in perceptual-
motor speed to social and educational enrichment. However, it
was also found that many of the games were either not enjoyable
or were unsuitable because of a challenging interface (e.g., small
size of the objects on the screen, rapid movements or reactions
required).
Although not addressing the 65+ demographic, Pratchett, Harris,
Taylor and Woolard [30] report that approximately one in five
(18%) of the 51-65 year olds in their sample of UK participants
played digital games, two thirds of whom play at least once a
week. These findings may not be homogeneous across Europe,
though. For example, a recent Finnish consumer study performed
by VTT as part of the Exergames project (1,489 respondents
between 13 and 76 years) found that every second (52%)
pensioner (over 65 years old) stated to play computer games, and
every fifth (22%) pensioner stated to play games on a daily basis
However, almost all pensioners (93%) spent less than an hour
playing at a time [18]. In the US, the Entertainment Software
Association (ESA) reports on data from almost 1500 respondents
in their ‘Essential facts about the computer and video game
industry’ publication. They found that 19% of Americans over the
age of 50 played video games in 2004, an increase from 9% in
1999. In 2005, this number rose to 25% [10; 11].
Overall, it is clear that seniors play digital games to a lesser
degree than younger aged groups, but this cannot be attributed to
a lack of openness or interest. Despite the fact that interacting
with computer technology can be challenging for seniors, the
literature suggests that older people are generally quite receptive
to using new technology. In a detailed study of technology
adoption behavior by elderly users, Melenhorst [25] found that
older individuals are motivated to invest in new communication
technology provided they perceive enough benefit for their
purposes. The perception of a lack of benefits, irrespective of
perceived costs, is reason enough to reject a new technology. In
line with these findings, Eggermont, Vandebosch, and Steyaert
[9] report that, in general, elderly are proponents of technological
advancement, which may provide valuable opportunities for them,
but not at any price. For example, they do not want technology
that replaces face-to-face contacts, but are interested in
technology that supports additional social contacts, connecting
people with similar interests (e.g., clubs), or helping them to stay
in touch when immobile.
3. AGE RELATED CHANGES AND
DIGITAL GAME DESIGN
Although seniors are quite diverse in abilities and experience,
older age is generally associated with a number of well-
documented changes in sensory-perceptual processes, motor
abilities, response speed and cognitive processes, all of which
impose requirements on interfaces that are to be pleasurably used
by the growing elderly population. We will briefly summarise
some of the main issues here. For a more detailed treatment, we
refer to Czaja and Lee [4], and Fisk, Rogers, Charness, Czaja and
Sharit [12].
With increased age, there is a loss in static and dynamic visual
acuity, as well as a reduction in the range of visual
accommodation, a loss of contrast sensitivity, decreases in dark
adaptation, declines in colour sensitivity, and a heightened
susceptibility to problems with glare. Such visual decrements may
make it harder for elderly people to perceive small elements on a
display (e.g., single soldiers in a real-time strategy game), to read
small print instructions or captions, or to locate information on
complex screens. Allowing the user easy control of font, color
and contrast setting, as well as window resizing, scroll rate and
zooming, is generally recommended. These adjustments should
not exceed appropriate boundaries for the playability of a game
on a system, e.g., a 200 point-size font on a portable game device
will not increase readability. At any moment in time, the user
should be able to directly undo the adjustments by means of a
single click.
Ageing is also related to declines in auditory acuity, in particular
sensitivity for pure tones, and high frequency tones. Problems
may occur in localizing sound, through problems in binocular
hearing. Older people may find it hard to understand synthetic
speech, because it is often somewhat distorted. For non-speech
audio signals, lower frequency tones (in the 500-1000 Hz range)
are easier for elderly users to hear than higher pitched sounds. In
general, it is advisable to provide redundant information through
multiple modalities. For example, if an in-game sound effect
delivers vital information, tactile (vibration) feedback through a
rumblepad or force-feedback joystick would be helpful as well.
Moreover, online social play should support both headsets (voice)
and text messaging (keyboard) for communication.
Motor impairments are diverse in their nature and cause, and have
varying degrees of impact on the user experience. Generally
though, senior users may experience changes in motor skills,
including slower response times, declines in ability to maintain
continuous movements, disruptions in coordination and balance,
loss of flexibility, and greater variability in movement [32]. Thus,
it may become a challenge to be steady with the mouse, or any
other control device. Small targets and moving interface elements
are known to be difficult for older people, and should best be
avoided.
Age-related changes in cognition are also likely to affect the
requirements of interface design. Cognitive processes that decline
with age include attention processes, working memory, discourse
comprehension, problem solving and reasoning, and memory
encoding and retrieval. Apparently easy computer tasks may put
quite a stringent demand on many of the processes mentioned
here. For example, remembering information from one screen to
another could be difficult because of limits in attention (see [5])
and working memory. From the point of view of interface design,
the focus has to be on simplicity and intuitiveness, providing
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appropriate affordances and overview, thus keeping the load on
memory and cognitive processing to a minimum.
In addition to functional limitations, the current generation of
seniors has not been exposed to the same level of computer
technology as the younger generation. In fact, many pensioners
have retired without needing or having used computers or the
internet at all during their working lives. Thus, this lack of
exposure may result in seniors not having an accurate mental
representation or conceptual model of how computer technology
works, what it can and cannot do. There is very little published
literature available on the potential differences in the way mental
models are built up by seniors as compared to the young. Van
Hees [15] suggested that elderly users must unlearn some of their
accumulated knowledge if it does not fit with the properties of
new technologies. Docampo Rama [6] has demonstrated that in
addition to an age effect (i.e., decline of function over age) there
is also an independent effect of technology generation, that is, the
dominant user interface experienced during the formative period
in life. When confronted with a layered interface, there Docampo
Rama found a pronounced discontinuity in the number of error
between people from the ‘electro-mechanical generation’ (born
before 1960) and those from the ‘software generation’ (born after
1960), suggesting a generational effect. Time on task, on the other
hand, increased linearly with age, indicating a more continuous
cognitive change. In addition, elderly users appear to use
somewhat different strategies in handling novel interfaces, taking
a more reflective approach, rather than a trial-and-error one [6].
The functional limitations and ICT experience of seniors could
have an impact on seniors' confidence level in playing, or starting
to play, digital games. Within the ICT domain, seniors are less
confident in their ability to perform than the young, which is
related to poorer, computer-related, global self-efficacy beliefs
[22]. Czaja, Charness, Fisk, Hertzog, Nair, Rogers, and Sharit [3]
found that computer self-efficacy is an important predictor of
computer anxiety. So, to decrease computer anxiety it is
important that seniors receive encouraging feedback and
experience some level of success (see [3]). Within the games
industry there already is a lot of (heuristic) knowledge about how
to provide effective positive feedback that increases the self-
efficacy or mastery of gamers. To support inexperienced elderly
users in overcoming their anxiety it is recommended to design
games that provide enough time to learn basic necessary skills,
and provide encouraging feedback from the start (e.g., provide
positive feedback in a strategy game after having build a town
centre, instead of providing feedback after having conquered
Europe). In this context, it is generally beneficial to emphasize
and provide feedback on learning goals rather than performance
goals, especially when the senior’s confidence in his or her
present abilities is low [8]. By presenting learning goals, there is a
focus on progress and mastery, rather than ability judgments,
which will likely increase the senior’s motivation and persistence
to engage in a task that is initially perceived as challenging.
In a quantitative study of web usability, Nielsen [29] compared
the performance (tasks completed, time on task, number of errors)
and subjective ratings of elderly users with that of younger users,
and found that overall, seniors experience more than twice the
usability problems than do younger users. He also found a strong
positive correlation between successful performance on the
various tasks, and subjective preference (r=0.78), indicating a
strong preference for those websites that are easiest to use. In
short, seniors are hurt more by bad design, and increasing
usability will significantly increase their satisfaction.
Although the discourse of ‘disengagement’ and an age-related
digital divide has dominated discussions on the effects of old age
on ICT use, it should be noted that certainly not all seniors face
difficulties when interacting with computers. The larger part
consists of mentally and physically healthy autonomous adults
between 55 and 75 years of age [1]. Most seniors are very well
capable of acquiring computer skills, learning how to use the web
(see, e.g., [27]), or learning how to use PDA's [23].
Moreover, retirement can also be considered as a time for further
exploration in life, rather than withdrawing from it. Digital games
may offer elderly users with new and exciting ways to be
entertained, stimulating mental abilities, and supporting existing
and emerging social networks, both within and across generations.
The accumulation of knowledge and wisdom, heterogeneity of
experiences, and changing social and societal roles that come with
age also bear relevance to the design of digital games. Perhaps the
most important design requirement we can formulate is to offer
seniors the kind of content they will appreciate and engage with,
even if this requirement is perhaps not as easily and
unambiguously specified and will be more idiosyncratic. As the
work of Melenhorst [25] has shown, it is not so much the cost of
having to learn a new interface that elderly users find prohibitive,
but a lack of perceived benefits. Thus, if a user-friendly interface
only provides access to games that are uninteresting for the
elderly user, he or she is not likely to engage with the content. To
put it differently, Counterstrike with adjustable font size may not
be the “killer application” for elderly users.
4. BENEFITS OF PLAYING DIGITAL
GAMES
Although little is known about senior adults’ perceived benefits of
digital games, there is a small but growing body of research
evidence in support of the notion that digital games can have a
significant positive impact on the older person’s mental and
physical health and wellbeing (see [14] for a brief review). In one
of the earliest studies in this area, Weisman [34] suggested that
digital games can play a positive role in meeting seniors’ need for
fun and mental stimulation, while also heightening their self-
esteem. He reported that moderate physical and mental
impairments did not prevent the nursing home patients in his
study to participate, using four games specifically designed for
this population.
Hollander and Plummer [16] reported on a study involving a
senior community in Rockville, MD, who were asked to play
video games over a three week period. Results indicated that
thought-provoking games (Trivia and Hangman) were found to
be the most stimulating and attention-grabbing. Therapeutic
effects were reported in a greater constructive use of leisure time,
and in participants’ increased feelings of success and
achievement.
McGuire [24] studied the effectiveness of digital games in
improving self-esteem among elderly long-term care residents.
Elderly residents in one wing of the institution were offered video
games for a period of eight weeks, whereas residents of a second
wing did not have the opportunity to play video games. Results
demonstrated that the elderly that played video games had an
improvement in self-esteem. Similarly, Goldstein et al. [13] found
that playing digital games for five hours per week for five weeks
improved reaction times, self-esteem and sense of well-being for
the elderly participants in his study. It did not, however, have a
significant effect on cognitive performance when compared to
controls.
Drew and Waters [7] have argued for the use of video games for
improving hand-eye coordination, or for slowing deterioration,
with age. A decline in perceptual-motor functions has serious
consequences which affects a range of activities of daily living.
The use of video games may ameliorate this situation for large
numbers of (non-institutionalized) seniors. Finally, Miller [26]
recently reported on a trial of 95 healthy older adults with an
average age of 80. Those who played HiFi, a game designed to
boost the function of the ageing brain, on a regular basis,
improved their scores on tests of memory and attention.
Although these studies indicate the potential benefits of digital
gaming in older age, especially on self-esteem and mental
stimulation, it should be noted that this research is still in its
infancy, and also some contradictory findings have been reported
(e.g., with regard to emotions; see [31]). Moreover, most studies
to date employed specially designed games, rather than games
that were already commercially available. Most commercially
available games today require such rapid and complex responses
that they are not easily accessible for seniors, who may find the
required eye-hand coordination and cognitive processing
prohibitive. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that digital games have
potential that goes beyond their primary recreational functions,
and may include therapeutic effects, as well as ‘spin-off’ effects
in terms of increased computer literacy and improved self-
efficacy in relation to other modern technologies.
5. DESIGN OPPORTUNITIES
Seniors have a variety of preferences, interests, tastes, abilities
and experiences which make them as heterogeneous a group as
any other. No empirical data are available as to what a typology
or categorization of senior gamers may look like and how this
would map onto potential game content. Although some of the
functional limitations described earlier may fuel a tendency to
focus on usability guidelines as an overarching design focus for
this group, we have argued that it is the perceived benefits rather
than the costs that will be decisive in the acceptance or rejection
of digital game design.
With this in mind, we see four main areas in which we feel there
are significant design opportunities. First, and perhaps most
basically, is the use of digital games for relaxation and
entertainment. Of all possible problems seniors may encounter in
their homes, those related to leisure time are among the least
solved ones. Although many seek problem-focused strategies for
problems such as housekeeping and personal care, often involving
the use of technology or social support, these types of solutions
are typically not sought when enjoyable leisure activities are
frustrated [20]. Instead, in over 60 percent of reported cases,
seniors gave up on their favorite pastime. The most pressing
barriers for the adoption of technology in the service of goal
attainment are their availability and seniors’ perceived self-
efficacy to use these [21]. Digital gaming applications present a
widely available class of technologies, serving a wide variety of
tastes, for which perceived self-efficacy can be increased through
accessible design and thoughtfully integrated feedback. Gaming
technology thus has significant potential to contribute positively
to seniors’ leisure time, as a viable alternative to television
viewing.
Secondly, many elderly enjoy games (especially of the non-digital
sort) as a means of socializing with others within and outside their
social network. Games provide a rich set of enjoyable topics of
conversation (e.g., Trivia), as well as a common activity that can
serve as a way of decreasing social distance (e.g., Bingo).
Although many digital games can be played alone, digital gaming
has become an increasingly social activity. A 2005 Nielsen
research report commissioned by the Interactive Software
Federation of Europe (ISFE) details that two-thirds of the gamers
they sampled (N=2000, with equal proportions from Spain,
Germany, Italy, the UK and France) play video games with other
people for at least an hour a week. Moreover, when probed for
their motivations to play, the number one motivation, supported
by 60% of the gamers, is the social component, i.e., “being able to
play with friends” [28]. The social interaction underlying games
is thus a crucial motivator to engage in digital gaming, and this is
only expected to increase in importance as one grows older.
Digital games may also connect different age groups together
while enjoying a common activity (e.g., grandparents and
grandchildren). Such games will need to meet requirements of
multiple user groups at the same time, which is an interesting
challenge from both a game and interface design point of view,
and one that recent intergenerational gaming projects are starting
to address [2].
Third, games can be played with the explicit motivation of
sharpening one’s mind. The evidence presented earlier in this
paper provides tentative support that challenging mental
activities, such as puzzles and quizzes, may indeed be beneficial
for stimulating memory and attentional abilities. Moreover, the
sense of accomplishment and perceived self-efficacy after
mastering a certain game can provide a significant boost to one’s
self-esteem. Echoing this sentiment, Nintendo has recently
launched an active and successful marketing campaign focusing
on elderly as a serious consumer segment. For the Nintendo DS
platform they introduced their ‘Dr Kawashima's Brain Training:
How Old Is Your Brain?’, software which puts players on a daily
regimen of number games, word puzzles and reading exercises. It
also lets players test their intelligence levels ('brain age') through
quizzes that involve attentional and memory processes (such as
the Stroop test; see Figure 1). It saves the results so progress can
be tracked or compared with others, introducing a social
component as well.
Finally, with the advent of new interaction technologies, digital
games now afford new ways of interacting that are both more
natural in terms of affordances and engage the whole body.
Examples of such embodied interaction devices include the Sony
EyeToy (using computer vision) and the Nintendo Wii (using
position and acceleration sensing), both of which allow for an
embodied, physically active way of engaging with the game
content. Such interaction styles can be employed for engaging the
user in a virtual fitness programme, providing guidance and
coaching that can be tailored to the individual, especially if such
software is coupled to biometrics data, such as heart rate (see,
e.g., [17]). In such a context, digital games can be regarded as
persuasive technologies that provide an additional incentive to
engage in healthy behaviour [19]. Indeed, the Nintendo Wii has
been successfully introduced in some old people’s homes, where
they are being used to keep physically fit, as well as socially
engaged with one another. As an example, Wii is now the latest
rage at the Sedgebrook retirement community in Lincolnshire,
where the average age is 77. In particular, the Wii Bowling
component of Wii Sports has members of this particular
retirement community hooked on playing the Wii installed inside
the Sedgebrooks’s clubhouse lounge.
6. CONCLUSION
Digital games hold significant positive potential for elderly users
– one that has hardly been tapped to date. In addition to
entertainment value, there can be substantial therapeutic value in
playing digital games. Moreover, digital games allow elderly
people, like other users, to bond socially, both with online or
physically co-located others, thereby enhancing their social
connectedness and potentially enlarging their social support
structure. Despite this potential, seniors are at present
proportionally underrepresented as consumers of digital games,
creating a significant and largely untapped market opportunity.
One of the reasons for this state of affairs has been the focus of
game developer studios to develop games primarily for adolescent
users – games which do not usually resonate well with the
interests, needs, abilities and limitations of elderly users.
As a consequence of both functional limitations and a simple lack
of technological experience, seniors are hurt more by usability
problems than younger users. Most game developers are still very
much unaware of basic game accessibility guidelines, which
could benefit a range of users, including seniors. This situation
can and should be drastically improved through extensive user
testing with elderly users and the use of design guidelines that are
specifically tailored to an elderly population. There is a
substantial body of literature focusing on the elderly ICT user
which details a number of specific interface design guidelines that
could also be usefully applied to game design (e.g,, [4]). Two
general design recommendations can be distilled from this
literature, which are particular to the needs of the senior
population. First, interface design for elderly users should
minimize the burden on functions that may have suffered decline,
such as demands on spatial memory, working memory, visual
functions or motor ability. Second, interfaces should be adaptable
to compensate for particular functional limitations (sensory,
motor or cognitive) of elderly users.
However, in this paper, we have argued that in addition to
ensuring usability of games for seniors, we need to make sure that
there are substantial perceived benefits for elderly users so that
they are willing to invest their valuable time and energy in what
could potentially be a rich and rewarding experience. To explore
and understand the needs and motivations of elderly gamers, there
is a great need for a substantial research effort, which includes
focus group studies, interviews, surveys and general market
segmentation research. In addition, further well-controlled studies
are required to establish unambiguously the effects of different
genres of digital games on different types of elderly gamers,
putting the various hypothesized benefits to a much more detailed
test.
7. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the European
Commission’s Framework 6 IST programme. In particular, the
work reported here has been supported by the FUGA project (part
of the IST – New and Emerging Science and Technology
programme) and the Games@Large project (part of the IST –
Networked Audio-Visual Systems and Home Platforms
programme).
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... Designing game-based solutions for seniors requires the consideration of agespecific factors to predict the adoption of this kind of system. Ijsselsteijn et al. [101] discussed this topic after presenting the premise that older people play digital games less than younger cohorts. The authors state that this is not directly connected to a lack of availability of new technology or lack of interest on the part of older adults; however, this technology must be useful for their own purposes without costs like substituting social contacts in person with technology-mediated ones. ...
... IJsselsteijn et al. [101] also highlight the different experience of older adults with Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) when compared to younger individuals. Many retired without the need of using computers for their activities, and they approach technological devices thoughtfully more than by trial-and-error. ...
... This allows for overcoming their anxiety through a game design that offers adequate time, a set of feasible learning goals, and a focus on mastery more than judgment to make them build their abilities and strategies. Finally, the authors of [101] consider how retirement can be experienced as an opportunity for further exploration in life, and game design must be tailored to user needs. Age-related changes in mind, body, and roles should be analyzed with the heterogenous skills, knowledge, preferences, interests, and background of seniors. ...
Chapter
One of the biggest challenges in the near future will be finding strategies to promote positive aging, that is, aging with a high quality of life with respect to both mental and physical health. Video games appear to be one of the most appealing interactive technologies for empowering older adults and assisting them to overcome health issues. As underlined by recent studies, computer games can improve seniors’ quality of life in several areas, including training of cognitive abilities, relaxation, socializing, and motivating healthy behaviors such as physical activity. Their capability to engage people is especially useful in clinical settings, enhancing patient adherence to therapy exercises, perhaps even more so when they can employ recent advances in Extended Reality, Internet of Things, and Tele-Health. Furthermore, emerging domains, like Digital Health, offer revolutionary ways to make games more effective, ubiquitous, adaptive, and personalized, empowering the user-centered (and senior-centered) design of these systems. Within this context, this chapter discusses the role of video games to foster positive aging, analyzing how they can enhance mental and physical health in the elderly population. © 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.
... The authors of this current study, therefore, argue that the pre-existing literature on the topic of actively playing older adults does not provide complete insight into the characteristics and distinctions among older age cohorts of gamers. Current recommendations for the design of games for older adults do not fully capture the nuances that are unique to older generations and have often been built on the analysis of contemporary context and the issues that older adults face when trying to play games (Gamberini et al., 2006;IJsselsteijn, Nap, de Kort, & Poels, 2007;McLaughlin, Gandy, Allaire, & Whitlock, 2012). Therefore, to capture a more holistic perspective, it is imperative to re-evaluate such recommendations through a lens that incorporates play through the older adults' entire lifespan. ...
... By differentiating between usability/accessibility concerns and content preferences/health benefits, IJsselsteijn et al. (2007) provided a blueprint for papers on the design of digital games for older adults for years to come. An interesting take on this blueprint can be found in the work of McLaughlin et al. (2012). ...
... While the study was able to replicate many of the findings from prior investigations into game design for aging players Gamberini et al., 2006;Gerling et al., 2012;IJsselsteijn et al., 2007;Marston, 2013;McLaughlin et al., 2012), it contributes to the literature by providing empirical support for the thesis that a life course perspective should be an essential part of the puzzle when designing games for older populations, including the next generation of older game players. Considering the player's past offers many insights into how a game can be meaningful in her life, or how a game can be more intuitive by mimicking design features from past play experiences. ...
Chapter
Play is a lifelong construct that is individually defined and is influenced by multiple variables that affect how play is interpreted and experienced in old age. This chapter highlights the significance of using a life course perspective to explore how play is shaped and reflected through digital gameplay and preferences as a game player ages. Using grounded theory methodology, 51 participants (age 43–77) were interviewed individually. The resulting transcripts were coded to identify emergent themes. The findings demonstrate 1) how play changes throughout the lifespan, 2) how play preferences established in childhood influence digital gameplay for aging adults, and 3) how aging adult gamers aspire to continue gaming as they grow older. Collectively, these themes provide insight into the aspects that need to be taken into account when designing games for aging gamer populations.
... 27 Denn insbesondere dieses Zusammenspiel regt die extrinsische Motivation an (Linehan et al., 2015, S. 82). 27 Positive Effekte lassen sich jedoch nicht gleichmäßig verteilt auf jede Altersklasse feststellen wie unter anderem Koivisto und Hamari aufzeigen : Der Bedienkomfort gamifizierter Anwendungen nimmt (momentan noch) mit steigendem Alter ab und deckt sich somit in dieser Erkenntnis mit weiteren wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten, in denen Menschen höheren Alters digitalen Oberflächen einen insgesamt geringeren Bedienkomfort bescheinigen (Ijsselsteijn et al., 2007;Morris & Venkatesh, 2000;Pfeil et al., 2009). Koivisto & Hamari betonen, dass sich diese Kluft in den Industriestaaten seit Jahren konstant verkleinert. ...
Thesis
324 anerkannte Ausbildungsberufe (Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung, 2021) und über 21.000 unterschiedliche Studiengänge (Stiftung zur Förderung der Hochschulrektorenkonferenz, 2021) gibt es in Deutschland. Begleitend dazu informieren Unternehmen, Institutionen und Organisationen in ihrem Employer Branding über ihre Jobangebote. Schulabgänger:innen und Berufseinsteiger:innen werden so mit einer Vielzahl von Karrieremöglichkeiten und einer Flut von Informationen darüber konfrontiert. Die vorliegende Studie untersucht, inwieweit und mit welchen Effekten Unternehmen mithilfe von Gamification zielgruppenaffin Informationen für berufseinsteigende Bewerber:innen bereitstellen können. Auf Basis einer Inhaltsanalyse werden zunächst gamifizierte Anwendungen (n=88) in der deutschsprachigen Personalbeschaffung aus den Jahren 2001 bis 2021 untersucht und in die vier Ausprägungen Berufsinformationsspiel, e-Assessment, Self-Assessment und Matching typologisiert. Self-Assessment und Matching werden im Anschluss auf positive Effekte hinsichtlich der Kontaktpunkterzeugung (Touchpoint), der realistischen Einblicke (Realistic Job Preview) und des Passungsabgleichs (P-O-Fit/P-J-Fit) untersucht. Zu diesem Zweck werden zwei quantitative Befragungen mit Mitarbeiter:innen von Personalabteilungen (n=221) und Berufseinsteiger:innen (n=217) durchgeführt und verglichen. Eine statistische Analyse mit dem Kruskal-Wallis-Test zeigt, dass insbesondere das Matching aus Sicht der Personalabteilungen die stärkeren Effekte hat (p<05), während beide gamifizierten Ansätze auf Seiten der Berufseinsteiger:innen gleich starke Effekte erzielen.
... This study followed previous recommendations for setting the level of difficulty for the learning tasks. The majority of previous studies on online games used different levels of difficulties (Ijsselsteijn et al. 2007). For example, Kiili et al. (2014) stated that the level of task difficulty can be increased gradually to meet individual's skill level. ...
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Anxiety and self-regulation are the most common problems among the college student population. There are few attempts found in the literature to promote the development of students’ cognitive and metacognitive abilities in online learning environments. In addition, mechanisms for overcoming or reducing individuals’ anxiety in a computer-mediated environment is yet to be fully characterized. This study was conducted to investigate the potential of integrating the concept of flow into the design of a Metalearner (MTL) to help reduce anxiety and increase self-regulation among students. The design of MTL was based on the development of adaptive strategies to balance between the challenge of the task and user skills. A total of 260 participants were asked to use the system and respond to an online questionnaire that asked about flow antecedents, experience, and consequences. The structural model results showed that incorporating flow into the design of MTL can help reduce anxiety and improve self-regulation among students. Our findings can be used to enrich students’ online learning experience and inform designers and developers of learning systems about the importance of regulating task complexity according to the challenge/skills balance. This would help learners to process the presented information meaningfully and to make the inferences necessary for understanding the learning content.
... For example, games used for medical treatment targeting children will use different mechanics and elements than those meant for elders. There are many studies into how to design for specific extra-diegetic purposes and target audiences (e.g., the elderly [46,47], people with physical disabilities [48,49], classroom use [50]) and careful consideration is required to ensure design decisions meet these requirements. ...
Article
Although games are frequently described as ‘engaging’, what this means exactly continues to be subject of debate in game literature. Engagement is often defined through related concepts like immersion and positive emotions. However, this neglects the fact that applied games aim to provide more than an entertaining experience, and that engagement with the applied purpose can exist separately from engagement with the game’s systems. To make this differentiation more apparent, this article introduces the Applied Games Engagement Model (AGEM), a theoretical model that distinguishes between an applied game’s systems and its non-entertainment purpose. It poses that game systems and purpose can overlap in varying amounts, both from game to game, and from moment to moment within a single game. The value of the model is in the explicit acknowledgement that the attention necessary for engaging with content is a limited resource, and that measures for engagement in applied games need to consider that not all engagement is purposeful. The article lays the conceptual foundation for the study of engagement in applied games, and provides a framework for how to design for an applied purpose. It illustrates its use in analysing applied games and their designs through three case studies.
... Some games do not apply game design guidelines for older adults and are therefore not suitable for them [52]. Thus, it is important to consider the needs and constraints of the target population in order to provide individually tailored and enjoyable games [43,53,54]. ...
Article
Full-text available
The global population aged 60 years and over rises due to increasing life expectancy. More older adults suffer from "geriatric giants". Mobility limitations, including immobility and instability , are usually accompanied by physical and cognitive decline, and can be further associated with gait changes. Improvements in physical and cognitive functions can be achieved with virtual reality exergame environments. This study investigated the usability of the newly developed VITAAL ex-ergame in mobility-impaired older adults aged 60 years and older. Usability was evaluated with a mixed-methods approach including a usability protocol, the System Usability Scale, and a guideline based interview. Thirteen participants (9 female, 80.5 ± 4.9 years, range: 71-89) tested the exer-game and completed the measurement. The System Usability Scale was rated in a marginal acceptability range (58.3 ± 16.5, range: 30-85). The usability protocol and the guideline-based interview revealed general positive usability. The VITAAL exergame prototype received positive feedback and can be considered usable by older adults with mobility limitations. However, minor improvements to the system in terms of design, instructions, and technical aspects should be taken into account. The results warrant testing of the feasibility of the adapted multicomponent VITAAL ex-ergame, and its effects on physical and cognitive functions, in comparison with conventional training , should be studied.
... This is particularly true in old age [2][3][4][5], including when living in a retirement home. Multiplayer video games can promote well-being and the maintenance of social relationships [6][7][8] because they can facilitate positive social interactions during play, even for players from different generations [9][10][11][12][13][14]. Imagine, for instance, a visiting grandchild playing a video game with their grandparent in a retirement home, or imagine care persons and residents playing together during activation therapy or recreation in a common room. Playing together is a rewarding experience [15] that connects people through joint action, cooperation, or playful and unthreatening competition. ...
Article
Background: Maintaining social relationships is a basic human need and particularly essential in old age, including when living in a retirement home. Multiplayer video games can promote positive social interactions among players from different generations while playing. Yet, such facilitation of positive social interactions depends on specific game design. To systematically investigate the effects of game design on social interaction between seniors and their coplayers, the game Myosotis FoodPlanet was developed in this study, and the impacts of 3 different game modes on social interaction were compared in a controlled field trial. Objective: This study aims to compare the effects of 3 different game modes (competitive, cooperative, and creative) on social interactions (verbal and nonverbal communication) between seniors and their younger coplayers. Methods: This study was conducted in a Swiss retirement home as a controlled field trial. Participants were residents of the retirement home (N=10; mean age 84.8 years, SD 5.9 years) and played in pairs with their caregivers. Each pair played 3 game modes in random order. This resulted in 30 game sequences of 20 minutes each. A within-subject design was applied with game mode as the within-factor and social interaction as the outcome variable. To assess the quality of social interaction, 30 video-recorded game sequences were analyzed based on an event sampling method. Results: Analysis of variance for repeated measurements revealed significant effects: there was significantly more verbal communication in the creative mode than in the cooperative mode (P=.04) with a strong effect size (Cohen f=0.611). An examination of verbal communication revealed more game-related communication in the creative mode than in the cooperative mode (P=.01) and the competitive mode (P=.09) with marginally significant effects and strong effect sizes (Cohen f=0.841). In addition, significantly more biography-related communication occurred in the creative mode than in the cooperative mode (P=.03), with a strong effect size (r=0.707). Regarding nonverbal communication (eg, laughing together), analysis of variance for repeated measurements showed significant differences among the game modes (P=.02) with a strong effect size (Cohen f=0.758). Results showed that there was significantly more laughing together in the competitive mode (competitive>cooperative>creative). Conclusions: The results show that game mode can be an important factor for shaping the social interactions of players playing together. Compared with other modes, creative game modes can increase verbal communication. In contrast, competitive modes may stimulate more laughing together. This has important implications for game design and the use of computer games to promote social interaction between seniors and their coplayers in practice.
Article
Age-related difficulties and quarantine restrictions impede the possibilities to maintain contact with one's social network. Maintaining these contacts may be supported by digital games. To develop effective and feasible digital tools to foster social interaction, we aimed to explore what older adults find important in social contact and what barriers and enablers they foresee in digital gaming interventions as network support aids. Two focus groups and 20 semi-structured interviews (N = 29) with older adults (aged 55-87) were held to explore the research questions. Furthermore, a questionnaire was administered (N = 29) containing measures of loneliness, frailty, and social network size. Participants found 'reciprocity', 'in-person contact', and 'personal connection' important in contact with strong ties. Online games were not used much for socializing but may be used in the future, particularly by less mobile older adults. Future social gaming interventions should be challenging, user-friendly, and offer the possibility to communicate. Digital co-designed interventions that are feasible, challenging, intuitive, and trigger meaningful communication may strengthen social interactions in older adults. They may be a relevant social support tool in periods of interaction limitations due to functional impairment or social isolation.
Book
The book presents the state of the art of the Internet of Things (IoT), applied to Human-Centered Design (HCD) projects addressed to ageing users, from the perspective of health, care and well-being. The current focus on the ageing population is opening up new opportunities for the development of niche solutions aimed at the niche category of older users who are beginning to experience physical and cognitive decline but are still independent and need to maintain their autonomy for as long as possible. The combination between the needs expressed by older users and the opportunities offered by the recent innovative technologies related to the Internet of Things allows research institutions, stakeholders, and academia to target and design new solutions for older users, safeguarding their well-being, health, and care, improving their quality of life. This book discusses and analyses the most recent services, products, systems and environments specifically conceived for older users, in order to enhance health, care, well-being and improve their quality of life. This approach is coherent with the percept of AAL or enhanced living environment, looking to the users’ comfort, autonomy, engagement and healthcare. The book describes and analyses aspects of HCD with older users looking to the emerging technologies, products, services, and environments analysed in their actual application in different areas, always concerning the design for the elderly related to the IoT, just as the development of biomonitoring devices, tools for activity recognition and simulation, creation of smart living environments, solutions for their autonomy, assistance and engagement enhancing health, care and wellbeing. The book is intended for researchers, designers, engineers, and practitioners in healthcare to connect academia, stakeholders, and research institutions to foster education, research and innovation.
Article
Full-text available
Purpose Medication adherence by older adults can be important in returning to and maintaining health. New technologies may be helpful in facilitating adherence. This article examines age differences in usability for one device: the personal digital assistant (PDA). Design and Method In the experiment reported here, 25 older and 26 younger adults were asked to learn to use medication adherence software supported by a PDA. In addition to completing a battery of cognitive tests and a survey designed to assess perceived PDA usability, each participant's PDA skill acquisition was assessed over time (i.e., during training, immediately following training, and after a delay). Results Consistent with previous research, older adults required longer to learn to use the PDA and committed more errors compared to younger adults. Over time, age differences in PDA performance were reduced suggesting that older adults might benefit from PDAs as prospective memory aids during medication adherence. Implications Potential directions for PDA training curricula, hardware design, and future research are discussed.
Article
Full-text available
Gerontechnology is a new interdisciplinary field of research in which technology is directed towards aspirations and opportunities for older people. Consequently, gerontological and technological research are inherently connected. Demographically, the aged are an increasing section of our society with specific but not homogeneous characteristics. In principle they might benefit much from innovative technological research. This article tries to show that this is usually not the case, and quite likely, will not be the case in the future either. The most important reasons are the perceptual world of older people, and the nature of the technological design process. The design process, or rather the product creation process in its current form, is particularly refractory to changes that will benefit a Design for All strategy. This is not to say that the circumstances of older people in the future will not be any better than nowadays, from a technology point of view. Yet, a persistent backlog with respect to younger members of society will be unavoidable. Considerable changes in the design process will ensue when applications, based on situated and distributed control systems, will support activities of older people in their own environment. The behaviour of such systems, inasmuch as it emerges from continuous interaction with the inhabitants of the home, is essentially the product, and this is where gerontechnology can make important inroads. On the basis of recent research it is interesting to note that the existence of gerontechnology has led to renewed attention for motivation, decision, and choice, giving due credit to older people as the deciding agents of their own course of life.
Article
As people get older, their independence may be hindered by problems that confront them in the home. To extend their independent functioning, environmental press on older individuals should be diminished but, at the same time, their ability to solve these problems themselves (proactivity) should be enhanced. The purpose of the present study was to identify the most important factors that influence proactivity. For this reason, a theoretical exploratory model was constructed that consisted of four types of factors that influence the adaptive problem-solving of the older individual and the adaptive strategies that result from this process. These factors were: (1) problem type; (2) personal factors of competence such as health, education, and knowledge; (3) factors describing the social network; and (4) factors describing the physical environment. Adaptive strategies were categorized to be physical/technical, social, personal or mental. Subsequently, the most significant factors in this model were identified, using the data of a survey among 120 elderly households. Results of the survey show that the adaptive strategy a person chooses is not only dependent on the type of problem, but also on personal qualities and physical housing. Also, the type of adaptive strategy chosen was a predictor of the perceived effectiveness of and satisfaction with the solution.
Article
This paper examines the effectiveness of video games in improving the self-esteem, as measured by the Self-Esteem Scale, and affect, as measured by the Affect Balance Scale, of residents of long term care facilities. Video games were made available for an eight week period to all the residents of one wing of a long term care facility. Residents of a sccond wing did not have the opportunity to play video games and were used as a control group. It was found that the video game group exhibited significant improvement in both self-esteem and affect from the pretest to the posttest. No change was found in the scores of the control group.
Article
An abstract is not available.
Article
This study examined the effects of playing video games (Super Tetris) on the reaction time, cognitive/perceptual adaptability, and emotional well-being of 22 noninstitutionalized elderly people aged 69 to 90. Volunteers in an elderly community in the Netherlands were randomly assigned to a videogameplaying experimental group or a nonplaying control group. The televisions of the 10 videogame players were provided with Nintendo SuperNes systems. Participants played Super Tetris 5 hours a week for 5 weeks, and maintained a log of their play. Before and after this play period, measures of reaction time (Sternberg Test; Steinberg, 1969), cognitive/perceptual adaptability (Stroop Color Word Test; Stroop, 1935), and emotional well-being (self-report questionnaire) were administered. Playing video games was related to a significant improvement in the Sternberg reaction time task, and to a relative increase in selfreported well-being. On the Stroop Color Word Test, both the experimental and control groups improved significantly, but the difference between groups was not statistically significant. The videogame-playing group had faster reaction times and felt a more positive sense of well-being compared to their nonplaying counterparts. Consistent with previous research on video games and the elderly, the present study finds the strongest effects on measures of reaction time, and the weakest effects on cognitive performance measures. Explanations and alternative interpretations of these findings are discussed.