Audiences & Experiences Week #7

The content for this week was centred around designing experiences for the elderly. The essential viewings included:

  • Elderly people, video games and accessibility – When old, I will (still) be a gamer (article by Jérôme Dupire, 2018)
  • Video Games and Other Online Activities May Improve Health in Ageing (article by Mario Kyriazis & Elizavet Kiourti, 2018)
  • Older adults’ digital gameplay, social capital, social connectedness, and civic participation (Article in Game Studies by Yu-Hao Lee, 2019)
  • VIEWING: Beyond Ageism: Designing Meaningful Games for an Older Audience (Video by Bob De Schutter of Miami University)
  • PLAY: A title of my choice from the “32 Best Mobile Games for Parents, Senior & the Elderly – iOS and Android Games” – Jigsaw Puzzle
  • Survey: Older Generation & Their Gaming Habits

From the short article, I can determine that the aim of this piece was to research into whether the accessibility issues associated with the older generation interacting with video games. However, this mainly focuses on gamers that have been playing for many years and how they can continue playing as they reach 50+. The method involved studying the effects of altering the difficulty without changing the original gameplay. It also applied existing preferences and expectations of older people within this experiment. The overall outcome is that in order to have a successful title marketed for older people, the developers must have conducted thorough research into the demographic alongside taking into consideration how relevant the content and gameplay is, accessible and engaging it is for them.

This piece differentiates slightly as it discusses the topic from a scientific angle referring to the cognitive neuron and the stimulus created by accessing information or training games. Cognitive challenges create a positive stress similar to physical exercise, which in turn helps to improve cognitive function in older people; video games are only one method of providing this. It can also improve physical health such as “while cognitive exercise may increase the speed of information processing, it can also improve certain physical health parameters in older people, including vitality, physical functioning, and bodily pain, as well as social and emotional functioning, and instrumental activities of daily living”.

Overall this was a brief, interesting read which supports the positive effects of the older generation interacting with video games.

This text highlights the strong need for social networks and connectedness for the older generation as they tend to miss this once they retire or once they start to decline in mental and physical ability. This is due to being excluded from social roles, lack of social networks and limited social activities – those who suffer badly have been shown to be more at risk of heart attacks. In addition, playing games online can help to change this as it provides a chance to connect and form relationships through a game world; modern third world. Older people can play games with grandchildren even if they live far away. 11–12 percent of all gamers in the US are above the age of 50 – they statistically spend the most time using media than other age groups.

Many prefer to play cognitive brain training style of games as to maintain their motor skills, attention span, reaction time and problem solving skills. Studies have shown that social connectedness is equally as important as physical and cognitive in predicting wellbeing, links to the idea of social capital. Bonding and bridging are two types of social capital – bonding refers to bonds between close family and friends – emotional and substantial support. Bridging is a weaker tie and is less likely to be substantial. Playing games with others may reduce bonding capital whereas playing games alone will reduce all social capital overall.

A quote to support this states:

Many of the reasons were social, including: (1) to meet new people and to stay in touch with young people. (2) to stay connected with children and grandchildren. (3) to relax with work colleagues. (4) to learn from and teach grandchildren. (5) to compete with children/partner. Also allows for diversity, connect with people of all ages, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status and educational levels.”

The talk begins with a summary of specific features to think about when designing content for older people such as accessibility and interesting content. These concepts have also been explored in the prior reading of “Older Adults Digital Gameplay”. Some points suggested for increasing accessibility includes:

  • Using higher contrast
  • Avoiding drag/drop movement
  • Making important objects large on screen
  • Allowing for sound calibration – sound frequency lowers as you get older. This is an interesting fact which I wasn’t previously aware of!
  • Adjusting the amount of words per minute within dialogue

These are just a few examples but the main link I found was that designing for children and older adults is fairly similar due to one category gaining the ability to function and the other slowly losing their physical and mental capabilities. In addition to this, he leads on to add that accessibility should be included from the start of the development process as it is difficult to add back in later on, every little bit helps (not every accessibility change will be relevant or required, even tweaking the colours so colour blind people can access your content is a start) and the importance of adjusting the interface and not the challenge itself.

It was interesting to watch this video of this talk last as it contradicted prior arguments made within the readings after the introductory section. For example, Bob De Schutter states that older people need to be challenged and provides an example with the Track Mania man; a game which wasn’t originally designed with the older generation in mind but he still enjoyed and persevered with completing the content regardless as he was able to interact with the interface.

Furthermore, Schutter continues to add that there is no compelling scientific evidence to link brain training style games to improve or delay cognitive decline in older adults. He then continues to explore this genre with explaining that many adults do not actually like playing these style of games as they’re not very interesting or entertaining. They can even be considered “ageist” due to deliberately targeting older people and pushing out the message that they need to feel young again or feel bad about becoming old; that there is something wrong with ageing.

In addition, another link to a previous reading states that the gaming industry overall excludes the older generation when designing new games. As older adults make up a large portion of the gaming demographic, even more predictably in 2045, they should be considered the future generation of gamers. The numbers derive through the possibility of gamers aged between 40–50 now, continuing and sustaining the ability to interact with games as they grow older.

For my game this week, I decided to choose something within a genre I wouldn’t normally play such as Jigsaw Puzzle. This title allows the user to put together puzzle pieces to form an overall digital image, much like it’s physical counterpart. This is a free title with minimal ads so I can see how this would be extremely accessible and appealing for an older person. It definitely feels like the style of game designed to pass time and to modernise an existing hobby. Mechanics to help make the gameplay easier includes providing three hints for each puzzle, however, once they’ve expired the player must either restart or watch ads to accumulate more hints. This could either be beneficial or frustrating depending on the age group e.g. the younger generation are annoyed by advertisements interrupting their gameplay whereas older people tend to have more time and may not mind as much. It also features varying difficulty levels from easy to expert which increases or decreases the amount of pieces that make up the image. It also prides itself on featuring no star ratings or gimmicks.

Here are the results from my survey I conducted on various older gamers.

Among the 3 responses I received, each provided a different favourite genre so it is hard to determine a strict preference. From this, I questioned the reasoning behind their choices and the overall reasoning for playing was to either be challenged or as a means to pass the time.

All of the respondents replied that they don’t feel the need to make use of the accessibility options and settings provided within the 55–65 age range. In addition, two respondents stated that they would perhaps purchase a game if they

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