Master's Thesis

Digital Games for Elderly Persons


Kathrin Gerling

Processing Period:

14.07.2010 - 12.01.2010


A growing number of elderly people regularly engages in digital game play. Research suggests a variety of possibly positive effects on senior citizens. Yet, games are rarely designed with an elderly target audience in mind. Thus, commercial video games are seldom appropriate for seniors in terms of usability and accessiblity, especially for those suffering from age-related impairments.

Therefore, this thesis focuses on the analysis of age-related changes and diseases in order to gain insight into the impact of age on the use of digital entertainment systems and to formulate requirements regarding game design for frail elderly. Furthermore, existing design guidelines are summarized to lay a theoretical foundation for this thesis. As previous work has not addressed games as complex systems and mainly focuses on game interface design, further effects of age on structural elements of games are examined.

Based on these considerations, the game concept SilverPromenade is developed. It features the Nintendo Balance Board and Wii Remote controllers as input devices allowing senior citizens to set out on virtual walks while engaging in simplistic mini games. A game prototype is implemented using Microsoft XNA Game Studio, which is then evaluated with 18 frail elderly participants. The results show that senior citizens enjoy playing digital games regardless of age-related changes and impairments. The evaluation underlines the importance of accounting for the specific needs of the target audience, like the reduction of the complexity of the game which allows frail elderly persons without previous gaming experience to engage in play. Overall, this thesis opens up new perspectives in game design for elderly people which should be subject to future work.