Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Public Health

Department

Gerontology

First Advisor

Dr. Graham D. Rowles

Abstract

Despite a marked increase in the use of digital games among older persons, there is insufficient research that provides insight into the gaming experiences of this population. A major demographic shift within the senior gaming market has ushered in a new perspective on the use of digital games as a tool for physical and cognitive health, and improved socialization. It is proposed that individual notions of play, which are developed over the life course, influence digital game play engagement and interaction preferences, and contribute to well-being. This study explored how self-perceptions of play over the course of the senior gamer’s life influence digital game engagement. Because the emerging area of senior gaming lacks theoretical structure, grounded theory methodology was employed. A qualitative study based on semi-structured interviews of aging gamers was conducted. A total of forty participants (age 44 to 77 with a digital gameplay average of 11 hours per week) were identified and interviewed with the aid of an interview guide. Designed with a life course perspective in mind, this guide sought to explore each participant’s perception of play, personal forms of play throughout their life, and the role of digital games as a component of play in old age. Transcription and analysis (open, axial, and selective coding utilizing the method of constant comparisons) was employed throughout the entire interview process. Findings indicated that digital gaming is a valued form of play and a means for play continuity. An analysis of emergent themes led to the development of a theory that emphasizes three domains: ability, motivation, and experience. Two theoretical models that represent the static and dynamic nature of these domains within the life of a gamer demonstrate the theory. This theory provides understanding of the key factors that influence gameplay, which has the potential of being applied toward the development of better age- and ability-appropriate digital games for aging gamers.