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Help create computer games for grannies!

1 September 2014

Tapology main

If your gran doesn’t 'get’ Grand Theft Auto, pleads with you to pull the plug on Portal, or wishes you wouldn’t waste time on World of Warcraft then Abertay University would like to hear from you - and your gran!

As part of the British Science Festival, scientists from the university - which specialises in computer games technology - will be in Birmingham on Saturday September 6 to crowdsource ideas for a new suite of apps being developed that are not only fun to play, but that do some good in the world as well.

Games for Good: Games for Gran will be an interactive drop-in workshop where participants - both young and old - will get the opportunity to brainstorm ideas and help come up with new computer games concepts that will be accessible to older people.

In the UK, there are currently five million people over the age of 60 who are unable to get online because they simply do not know how to use or access new technologies.

To help address this issue, social and computer scientists at Abertay have been creating a new app called , that has been specifically designed to help older users and users with low vision get used to touchscreen technology - particularly on tablets - so that they can reap its many benefits.

People who take part in Games for Good, Games for Gran will get the chance to experience the scientists’ ‘instant ageing lab’ and play some of the new Tapology games on the app, gaining insights into the way that older people experience touch screen technology.

They will then be able to use the experience to storyboard ideas for some brilliant new ‘games for good’.

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Dr Ken Scott-Brown - Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Abertay, who specialises in perception and the ageing process and works closely with the university’s computer scientists and game developers - explains:

“Computer games can be so much more than simply entertainment. They can be used as a really engaging way to help with a great number of different problems, including - perhaps surprisingly - problems faced by the elderly.

“At the moment, a lot of older people don’t feel included when it comes to modern types of communications technology, and there are all sorts of different reasons for that.

“One reason in particular is low vision. Low vision is different from just being short or long sighted and includes conditions like macular degeneration, where eyesight can’t be improved with regular glasses, medicines or eye surgery. In order to get an idea of what living with these kinds of conditions is like, the people who come along to our event will be able to take on different points of view and experiences of technology and interaction by putting on the vision simulation specs in our ‘instant-ageing lab’.

“The idea is to show how the world in general, and computers in particular, look and feel to people of different ages.

“Our programmers, artists and game designers have already been able to bring to life a number of mini games in our  app. One of these is the ‘It’s Pouring’ game which is loosely based on Space Invaders, but where players catch rain from a cloud. This was co-designed by the Fife Society for the Blind and our computer programmers and artists made it into a playable game.

“So people will be able to have a go on these, and then get to join in the creative process by telling us their ideas.

“When they see what can be done, and understand a bit about the issues, people readily say things like ‘why don’t you have a game that does X?’, or ‘can you come up with a game that would train up Y?’. So we’ll capture these ideas and create a concept story for each interaction. We’ll also have a ‘name the game’ box for suggestions if people just want to drop something off.

“But the whole idea is to create a ‘game for gran’ - or granddad - where we challenge people of all ages to come up with game ideas that will appeal to different generations.

“After all the suggestions are in, we will whittle down the best ones, and the best will then be developed and released in our next version of the app.

“People will be able to sign up for a download of the app, and be the first to play it before general release.

“The aim of Tapology is to make tablet computers more accessible to older people. The games it contains are a key part of an e-inclusion agenda that uses assistive technology to break down barriers between generations and between health care users.

“The idea is to make engaging with the digital world as fun as possible - by using games and tablet computers - so that people then go on to explore what else is on offer.

“We want to be able to measure how engaging these apps are in the long term, so the feedback we receive at this stage of development will be used as we begin the development cycle again and find what the best ways to engage older users really are.”

Games for Good: Games for Gran will run from 10am to 4.30pm on Saturday September 6 in the Library of Birmingham. It is a free drop-in session - no booking is required.

This event is part of the British Science Festival 2014, which takes place in Birmingham from 6-11 September. Details of all events are available on Tickets can be booked online or by calling 08456 807 207.


For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07972172158 E: or Chris Wilson: T: 01382 308522 M: 07837250284 E:

Notes to Editors:

Abertay is well-known for its computer games research, having created the world’s first Computer Games degree back in 1997.

The institution is now leading the way when it comes to finding new applications for this kind of technology, with academics working across disciplines to help people understand complex information, make decisions and offer positive solutions to scientific problems.

For example, the university created Far From Home in collaboration with The Care Inspectorate – the organisation that regulates and monitors the quality of care providers in Scotland.

The game explores themes of trust, consequence and unfamiliarity in an action-packed and strange alien world – reflecting what it feels like for many of the young people living in care today.

The game’s star, Sid – a blue-headed alien – was originally conceived by young people with experience of the care system, and was brought to life by Abertay University students.

The game is designed to help the young people who play it engage with the issues they experience as children in the care system and to help them understand their right to good quality care.

Another excellent example of how computer games can be used for good is Genes in Space, which was created by Abertay graduates Guerilla Tea in conjunction with Cancer Research UK.

When playing this game, people simultaneously analyse Cancer Research UK’s gene data, highlighting genetic faults which can cause cancer – and ultimately helping scientists develop new treatments.

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