The goal of my PhD project is to research how we can design for play experiences in everyday life situations to stimulate physical activity. As demented older persons are the least active of our society, we use play experiences in the nursing home environment to activate its residents. To study and design for this hard-to-reach target group we collaborate closely with design companies, neuropsychologists, and care professionals. In collaboration with the department of Clinical Neuropsychology (VU Amsterdam) we determined which play experience are suitable during the different stages of the Alzheimer’s disease. By applying several play experience in everyday products we want to stimulate demented nursing home residents to become more physically active. This aim places my project in the category of “persuasive” design, but I would rather describe it as it inviting and supporting people for activities of daily living.
I don’t create a game world in itself, but I embed play experiences in the real world setting to cause a behavioral change. The goal is to get the subjects involved in an activity and to keep them involved for a longer period of time. The transfer as a separate step is not needed in this case, since the change already occurs in the (gamified) real world. They are merged and there’s no clear distinction between the two worlds, so the changes happen simultaneously in both.
I think the strength of games is that they can be very immersive and that might be something to strive after with product design. By designing for play experiences we can motivate people to use our products, whether they aim for a behavioral change or not. Besides, the possible play experiences can be inspirational for designers to bring new types of products to the field and create new product interactions.
text by Malgorzata Pawlak