Tag Archives: Video games

Video games in care homes: connecting older adults, or exposing age-related vulnerability?

Introducing video games as a means of bringing older adults in long-term care together may not always be an easy task, according to new research.

Previous studies have shown the positive effects of motion-based video games, such as those available on the Nintendo Wii or Microsoft Kinect systems, on the cognitive, physical and emotional well-being of older adults in long-term residential care. However, offering stimulating and accessible leisure activities such as this can be difficult for care providers as the impact of age-related changes and impairments on residents grows.

A new study has for the first time examined the practical challenges and opportunities that arise when games are integrated into activities for different groups of older people living in long-term care facilities.

Dr Kathrin Gerling, from the School of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln, UK, led the project, which was carried out in collaboration with Dr Regan Mandryk at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and Dr Conor Linehan at University College Cork, Ireland.

The study involved weekly gaming sessions over a three month period at two long-term care facilities: A senior residence offering independent and assisted living apartments for older adults, and a care facility that specialises in individuals with special needs, including older adults who experience age-related changes and impairments such as dementia or mobility disabilities. Games used in the study included custom-designed motion-based casual games along with Xbox 360 games mimicking the real-world, for example, bowling.

Dr Gerling said: “We were interested in the potential of games to engage older adults in long-term care in group activities. We looked at how people approached video games, to see if they stuck with it and found it enjoyable, and also to find out if this stimulated group activities and resulted in friendships. Players at the senior residence quickly understood how the games worked and it became an actual group activity. People formed relationships, took more ownership and adapted games to fit in with how they wanted to play. We found it more difficult to bring people together at the care home, mostly because of different age-related impairments. In some cases, players needed a lot of support from staff, and depended on them being able to attend gaming sessions.”

The findings suggest that older adults enjoyed playing video games, and that games can be a challenging and appealing activity that allow people to experience the feeling of accomplishing new skills later in life.

However, the extent to which people experience the benefit of gaming is determined largely by whether they have developed any disabilities linked to ageing. These changes may impact a person’s ability to engage with games for reasons beyond simple game accessibility, such as how much assistance they need to play, and whether they feel comfortable playing games in a group setting.

Dr Gerling said: “You always have a split of people who like playing video games and those who don’t, no matter what age. But older people learning to play new games in public may feel particularly uncomfortable if they are experiencing vulnerability over their age-related changes and impairments. Some older adults require extensive support, both to gain access to gaming sessions and throughout play.

“We need to make sure that video games created for older adults in long-term care are adaptive – there’s a fine line between challenging people and giving them something meaningful to accomplish, as opposed to doing harm. To be successful games need to engage players of all abilities and be tailored towards specific groups. It’s really important to be mindful of the context in which games will be played and be understanding of the individual abilities of the player. This is particularly important when evaluating the value of games for improving the quality of life, and when creating games with a purpose beyond entertainment, such as therapy and rehabilitation.”

The full research paper is being presented at CHI 2015 – the world’s leading conference in the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) – which takes place in Seoul, Korea, from 18th to 23rd April 2015.

Dr Gerling’s future research will explore further how communities of older adults playing video games on a regular basis over prolonged periods of time evolve; and also focus on the benefits that video game play can have on well-being in late life.

The research has already featured in Nursing Times and GamePolitics.com


Become an ultimate Dungeon Master through Twitter

A new fantasy videogame that will give players the power to generate their own levels through Twitter has been launched.

Hashtag Dungeon is unique, in that rather than procedurally generating its own content, the game is tied to the @HashtagDungeon Twitter account which tweets out the code that becomes a whole new level of dungeon generation.

Create dungeons yourself using the built-in dungeon editor and tweet your levels to the world, or venture through levels created by other players. Assume the role of a Dungeon Explorer or a Dungeon Master in order to create a unique dungeon crawling experience.

Developed by graduate Sean Oxspring and current Computer Science undergraduate Kieran Hicks, from the University of Lincoln, UK, the game has been compared to the original Zelda.

Sean, who is a freelance games developer, said: “I had the original idea to create a dungeon crawler from tweets – relating letters to items in rooms. Together with Kieran and Dr Patrick Dickinson in the School of Computer Science we refined the idea and it became a collaborative design tool. Dungeons are made up of combinations of tweets with the same hashtag identifiers. I’m astounded by the feedback we’ve had so far.”

Called a roguelike, Hashtag Dungeon is a sub-genre of role-playing video games, characterized by random level generation, tile-based graphics and permanent death.

The game challenges players to clear every room in a dungeon before taking down a final bad guy, and also allows users to create their own dungeons.

By tweeting code tagged as #HashtagDungeon, players can add new content in the form of rooms filled with monsters, traps and other content. All tagged tweets will automatically be uploaded within the game.

For those whose coding skills may be more basic, Hashtag Dungeon includes an editor option where players can build rooms by dragging and dropping elements and tweeting the results.

Kieran said: “I wanted to create a game that focussed on social integration and user creativity and expression. Using twitter as the means to generate dungeons helps to accomplish this. The whole game is built to be as social as possible; the room design system has a lot of depth to it to allow players to feel like they have control and can make design decisions. The idea now is to follow in the footsteps of games like Minecraft and Don’t Starve by adding content to the game over time based on player feedback.”

Dr Dickinson added: “Hashtag Dungeon is a unique concept which leverages social media in a very interesting way. Kieran and Sean have worked really hard in bringing this project to fruition, and the game is getting better and better, so I am glad they are getting some well-deserved recognition.”

Hashtag Dungeon has been launched on PC devices. To download go to www.hashtagdungeon.com

Hashtag Dungeon
Hashtag Dungeon
Hashtag Dungeon
Hashtag Dungeon

Bringing video games into the real world

Video games are slowly moving out of the monitor and into the real world. And this next stage of development in the world of gaming will be shared with Computer Science students during a special workshop.

‘Real-world’ or Mixed Reality gaming is fast becoming the next big thing in computer games advancement.

Students will be learning how to create games set in real environments during a special two-week workshop led by Richard Wetzel, a PhD student from the University of Nottingham.

Richard said: “These Mixed Reality location-based games are interesting because, unlike when you play traditional video games, you are moving around using your whole body and senses to explore the real-world environment. For example, they give people the opportunity to see the city they live in through new eyes.

“The main difficulty when designing games like this, which also is an advantage, is that you cannot completely control the real world. You obviously have other people and situations, such as the weather, that will change what is happening. Although you cannot foresee these complications, this is what makes the game a much richer experience. The serendipity of the real world influences players’ actions. I will be teaching the students about these problems and how to overcome them.”

The workshop at the University of Lincoln runs from Sunday, 27th October to Saturday, 9th November and involves students from all year groups.

For an example of Richard’s previous work in this area go to http://youtu.be/WjjHMqSGPpE