My last blog post presented the idea that games, especially video games, are a potential solution to many of the difficulties we face as we age. In this post, I want to go a bit more into detail about the problem of loneliness and how gaming could be the solution.
I need to preface this by saying that I am not the most experienced at elderly care and there are many opportunities for research into games for the elderly that should be done when developing a game for this audience. Therefore, my ideas could be substantially improved upon and I may be missing key elements that are essential for this to work.
My idea revolves around getting groups of elderly people in a nursing home to play a game together, much like what happened when the Wii released. My concept however is to make the game for the Amazon Echo. If you aren’t aware of this product, it is essentially an audio based control system. It can be used to turn on TV’s, look things up through a wifi connection, set alarms, stream music, or potentially work with other smart devices in your home. While this isn’t a typical gaming console, it does come with a development kit and a lot of potential.
This platform is cheap (compared to a console and is in the price range of a TV or a low-end computer) and variable, but most importantly is that because it is controlled through audio means (your voice) it is widely accessible to a large audience. It will also be improved upon in the future, perhaps allowing for a wider toolset such as displaying images onto TV’s in a nursing home. My game would utilize it much in the same way text-based adventure games utilized the lack of images on early computers.
The game concept would be that of a pre-defined campaign similar to Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons where the Amazon Echo describes a scene and presents a few numbered options for players to choose from. Ideally, one person would be chosen to be the speaker and the interaction to combat loneliness comes from the players discussing and arguing over what they should do.
I want this game to ask groups of elderly people in nursing homes to interact to accomplish a goal, but the interaction is the key element here. By only allowing for a single choice and many people making a decision, this would (hopefully) cause people to challenge each other just enough to make those interactions meaningful. While it may seem odd to want players to bicker over your game, in small amounts these emotions are what make the interactions fun. Board games practically rely on this in many cases, as conflicts between players are what lead to memorable interactions.
The game would need to be simple to lessen the mental load required to keep track of what’s happening. Options should also be limited enough reduce the potential actions, but varied enough where different personalities will attempt to solve it in different ways. Hence why I chose a DnD styled campaigns, because a brutish orc and a conniving thief are perfect personalities to provide unique options to solve a single problem.
This same concept could be applied to a team-based game or a trivia game as well and hopefully this idea is just a start. With so many possibilities available and with how unexplored this area is, there is a lot of ‘blue-ocean’ potential here and a shot at making a difference in the world. The link goes to a Google Doc to provide a bit more detail on my game idea and connects with others who helped with the concept.