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How do you design games for people with a specific care need? What factors do you need to take account of as a designer?

Co-design

How do you design games for people with a cognitive disability? We believe that the starting point is putting yourself in their shoes. As we want to develop products for particular target groups, we devise these products together with the target group.

The process in which designers and non-designers work together is called co-design. During the development of new games, we involve experts and people concerned from various care locations (our co-design locations) in the Netherlands, the United States, and South Africa.

Co-design locations

During creative sessions at our co-design locations, we look more extensively at the interests and experiences of the players, together with the carers, behavioural experts, support workers and family members. In addition, we shadow the carers from time to time. As a result, we come up with ideas for new games. For example, the Animal Puzzle game for the Tovertafel UP emerged from the desire to have a game that can be played at any time by people with different cognitive levels.

From idea to prototype

Our design team consists of visual designers, game designers and user-centred designers. In brainstorm sessions, this team works with ideas and suggestions that have come from the creative sessions, and develops these into concepts for games. The team makes use of design tools, such as game characteristics, which we developed ourselves. The concepts are then passed on to the development team, who are in charge of the technology behind the games.

Look at the game characteristics per target group >

From prototype to launch

The first prototype is made. Now we want to know if the game really suits the target group. We go back to the co-design location and the most fun part begins: we start playing! During these game tests, we stay as true to the normal situation as possible and we observe the target group. Furthermore, we evaluate prototypes of the games together with care experts and support workers. We consider what works and what doesn't, and what is still missing. The changes and discussion points are worked through further until the new game really fits and delivers happy moments! During game testing, some prototypes turn out to be unsuitable and are abandoned, but conversely existing games are improved, and ideas for new games emerge!

Game characteristics

We want to create as many happy moments as possible for those who cannot take them for granted. Therefore, we do not only share insights from our own research with our own designers and developers, but also with other designers who want to improve the quality of life for people with a cognitive disability. The game characteristics below have emerged from game tests, our own research and observations, and existing literature. They inspire us to come up with new games, but are also used to check whether the concept of a game meets the correct conditions for the specific target group. The game characteristics keep developing and are never finished, as we continue to fine-tune them and we never stop learning!

Game characteristics

  • The game communicates with details of how it will behave

  • The game fascinates with special interests

  • The game fascinates with sensations

  • The game makes repetition possible

  • The game always behaves predictably

  • Each game has unique images and sounds

  • The game has a clear structure

  • The game gives sufficient reaction time

  • The player often has the initiative

  • The game (sometimes) inspires imitation

  • The game facilitates turn-taking

  • The game creates a common focus

  • The game gives sufficient reaction time

  • The game is realistic and designed for adults

  • The game provides surprises

  • The game is ideally both visual and auditory

  • The game seeks a balance between relaxing and stimulating projections

  • The game suits the players’ experiences and interests

  • The game is simple but not childish

  • The game makes it possible to work together towards a goal

  • The game can be played independently, or with minimal supervision

  • The game invites participation on every social/emotional level

  • The game uses bright, clear colours with lots of contrast

  • The game challenges at each cognitive level

  • The game inspires healthy competition

  • The game has a concrete goal

  • The player always has the initiative

  • The game reacts to minimal and/or slow movements

  • Projected images naturally inspire movement or touch

  • The game gives sufficient reaction times

  • Projections are always spread across the table

  • The game always reacts in a logical manner

  • Projections slow down as soon as they are within reach

  • The game uses high-contrast projections

  • The game only gives positive feedback

  • The game invites participation at every level; nobody is excluded

  • The game contains familiar elements from the past

  • The game holds the players’ attention

  • The game attracts the players’ attention

  • The game takes the initiative and gives the players a new stimulus ‘automatically’