Speaker to address aging game players, accessibility in video games

De Schutter is creator of Brukel, game designed to sensitize players to the impact of war on innocent bystanders
Pam Powers | March 19, 2021

A video game designer and researcher well known for his work on the design of video games for aging players is the next guest for the School of Art and Design Speaker Series.

Bob De Schutter, the C. Michael Armstrong professor of Applied Game Design at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, will speak virtually from 5:45 to 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday, March 24, on Microsoft Teams. The event is free and open to the public. De Schutter will debunk stereotypes that surround players over 50 years of age and outline how aspiring game developers can make games better for aging players.

De Schutter designed the digital game Brukel. The game explores the childhood and teenage years of De Schutter’s grandmother and is designed around five hours of her reminiscing about her past at the Brukel farmhouse and living on the front during World War II.

Bob De Schutter
Bob De Schutter / Contributed photo

The game won runner-up for the best digital game at Meaningful Play, three Belgian Game Awards and a Gold Medal at the International Serious Play Awards. The game was designed to sensitize generations about the impact of war on innocent bystanders.

School of Art and Design Director Dave Beck, who is also associate dean of the College of Arts, Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences, said he had heard De Schutter speak and knew he was a perfect match to speak to UW-Stout student artists, designers and the community. De Schutter is speaking during Art and Design Week.

“Our game design and development program at UW-Stout is very unique,” Beck said. “We educate students to realize that there is more to games than what they might find on PlayStation or Steam. The world of games and interactivity is growing larger by the day and reaching industries such as medical, construction, data visualization and education. Having De Schutter virtually visit and speak with us will allow for the students to gain yet another perspective on the diverse array of opportunities in this growing, evolving field.

 

Dave Beck
Dave Beck / UW-Stout

“Just as populations adopt different trends, lifestyles and technologies – and carry those on into their older age – the same applies to games,” Beck said. “Whether it is through mobile/tablet gaming, board gaming, console gaming or even virtual reality, games are not bound by a specific age group, and we will continue to see this as the games medium matures along with the populations that first adopted it. It’s yet another platform that will bring people together while also keeping a person’s brain sharp as they solve puzzles and complex problems through a game environment.”

At a Game Developer’s Conference in 2016, De Schutter spoke on designing meaningful games for the older audience. He noted that 27% of U.S. gamers are over 50, and at that time the average gamer age was 35.

The Pew Research Center estimates 40% of people between 50 and 64 play games. As the U.S. population ages, by 2050 about one-fifth of the world will be over age 50. De Schutter noted that by 2045 there could be more than 105 million U.S. gamers over 50, more than today’s population of Spain and Italy combined.

Designers will need to make games accessible and provide great content to make them fun to play, De Schutter said at the conference.

De Schutter will also be virtually visiting senior capstone game design classes, providing feedback to students on their projects, Beck said.

Art and Design Week is from Monday, March 22, through Friday, March 26. It is a professional development opportunity in the Bachelor of Fine Arts programs. The event by Career Services and the School of Art and Design helps connect students with employers, design professionals and alumni. It includes portfolio reviews, panel discussions and workshops.

UW-Stout offers two undergraduate game design programs, a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Science, the latter in computer science with a concentration in game design. In these programs, students learn how to create video, mobile, board and other types of games. The MFA in design program also offers courses in game design.

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