Gerontoludic Design: Extending the MDA Framework to Facilitate Meaningful Play for Older Adults

Gerontoludic Design: Extending the MDA Framework to Facilitate Meaningful Play for Older Adults

Bob De Schutter
DOI: 10.4018/IJGCMS.2017010103
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Considering the popularity of digital games among older adults and the challenge of population ageing, this article identified a need for an integrated game design framework aimed at older audiences. An analysis of the literature on play in later life demonstrated how the literature is dominated by two themes, i.e., the benefits of playing digital games and the issue of accessibility. While this underlying model has been demonstrated to contribute to successful designs, it also risks reducing games to its motivational characteristics and ageing to cognitive and physical decline. The author therefore reviewed the literature on game design and later life to develop a design approach that considers the multi-faceted nature of ageing as well as the intrinsic value of digital games. The resulting “Gerontoludic Design Framework” sets meaningful play as the intended outcome of game design for older adults, identifies iterative player-centered design as its preferred design approach, and extends the MDA framework by suggesting age-specific aesthetics and mechanics.
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Themes In Previous Literature

The study of digital games in later life has been inspiring academic research for more than 30 years, as Weisman’s (1983) “Computer Games for the (Frail) Elderly” was possibly the first scholarly article on the topic. To develop the design framework that is proposed in this paper, I analyzed the literature on the topic of games and ageing in November 2014. While it was not the intention of this review to present an exhaustive meta-analysis, it did lead to a number of insights that would inform the eventual framework.

The search queried Medline/PubMed, Web of Science, Google Scholar and article reference lists, using the terms “games”, “gaming”, “play”, “older adults”, “seniors” and “elderly”. Duplicates were removed from the search results, as well as result that were irrelevant to the goals of this project. For example, some of the results used the term “seniors” to refer to high school students, and others used “play” to refer to the performance of a certain act. The review therefore excluded articles that studied sports, music, gambling, and any form of play that did not include references to digital games or technology.

Figure 1.

Amount of publications in the sample, organized per decade from the 1980s until November 2014


The resulting sample of 265 articles indicated that the field was fairly small until 2006 as only 17 of the 265 articles (6.42%) were published before that year. While 2005 had only 1 article in the list, 2006 produced 3 articles (1.13%), while 2007 added 4 (1.50%), and 2008 contributed 16 publications (6.04%) (see Figure 1).

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