Lessons Learned from Two Usability Studies of Digital Skiing Game with Elderly People in Finland and Japan

Aung Pyae, Tapani Joelsson, Teppo Saarenpää, Luimula Mika, Christina Kattimeri, Paula Pitkäkangas, Patric Granholm, Jouni Smed


Physical decline is associated with old age. Engagement in regular physical exercises can help elderly people improve their physical functionalities, as well as cognitive abilities. Among modern technologies, digital games have the potential to promote elderly people’s engagement in physical exercises through fun and enjoyable gameplay. Although commercial digital games show promise, most of them are not senior-friendly. The literature also suggests that more studies need to be undertaken to understand the usability and usefulness of digital games for elderly people. Hence, in this study, we designed and developed a digital game-based Skiing activity for elderly people. Then, we evaluated it with the Finnish and Japanese elderly participants in Finland and Japan to investigate their feedback towards the usability and usefulness of the game. The findings from both studies show that digital games are useful for promoting elderly people’s engagement in physical activities. While digital games are promising to be used as an alternative solution for promoting the Japanese elderly participant’s physical activities, the Finnish elderly participants recommend to use it when they don’t have access to non-digital physical exercises. The lessons learned from this study can help researchers and practitioners gain insights into game design and development for elderly people and their physical activities.


Digital games, Elderly People, Usability, User Experience, Human-Computer Interaction;

Full Text:



Hébert, R., Functional Decline in Old Age, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Vol.157, Nr. 8, 1997, pp. 1037-1045.

American Psychological Association (APA), Older adults’ health and age-related changes, 2017, http://www.apa.org/pi/aging/resources/guides/older.aspx

Chappell, N. L., Cooke, H. A., “Age-related disabilities - Aging and quality of life”, In J. Stone & M. Blouin (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Rehabilitation, 2010

Manini, T. M., Mobility Decline in Old Age: A Time to Intervene, Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, Vol. 41, Nr. 1, 2014

World Health Organization, “Good health adds life to years: Global brief for World Health Day”, http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/70853/1/WHO_DCO_WHD_2012.2_-eng.pdf

Bherer, L., Erickson, K. I., Liu-Ambrose, T., A Review of the Effects of Physical Activity and Exercise on Cognitive and Brain Functions in Older Adults, Journal of Aging Research, 2013, doi:10.1155/2013/657508

Sun, F., Norma, I. J., While, A. E., Physical Activity in Older People: A Systematic Review, BMC Public Health, Vol.13, Nr. 499, 2013, doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-449

Planinc, R., Nake, I., Kampel, M., “Exergame Design Guidelines for Enhancing Elderly’s Physical and Social Activities”. Paper presented at the The Third International Conference on Ambient Computing, Applications, Services and Technologies, 2013.

Harrington, C. N., Hartley, J. Q., Mitzner, T. L., Rogers, W. A., “Assessing Older Adults’ Usability Challenges Using Kinect-Based Exergames”, In J. Zhou & G. Salvendy (Eds.), Human Aspects of IT for the Aged Population. Design for Everyday Life: First International Conference, ITAP 2015, Held as Part of HCI International 2015, Los Angeles, CA, USA, August 2-7, 2015. Proceedings, Part II (pp. 488-499). Cham: Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20913-5_45

Pyae, A., Tan, B. Y., Mark, G., “Understanding stroke patients’ needs for designing user-centered rehabilitative games”. Proceedings of the 7th Annual International Conference on Computer Games Multimedia and Allied Technologies, 2013, pp. 151–156. https://doi.org/10.5176/2251-1679_CGAT13.36

Whitlock, L. A., McLaughlin, A. C., Allaire, J. C., “Video Game Design for Older Adults: Usability Observations from an Intervention Study”, the The HUMAN FACTORS and ERGONOMICS SOCIETY 55th ANNUAL MEETING, 2011.

Gerling, K. M., Livingston, I. J., Nacke, L. E., Mandryk, R. L., “Full-Body Motion-Based Game Interaction for Older Adults”. Paper presented at the CHI 2012, Austin, Texas. https://doi.org/10.1145/2207676.2208324

Heikkilä, E., “Labour Market Participation of Immigrants in Finland and its Regions”. The European Social Science History Conference, 2012.

Raitoharju, R., Luimula, M., Pyae, A., Pitkäkangas, P., Smed, J., “Serious games and active healthy ageing: A pre-study”. Proceedings of the International Conference on Well-being in the Information Society, WIS, 2014. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-10211-5_16

United Nations, “World Population Ageing”, http://www.un.org/en/development-/desa/population/publications/pdf/ageing/WPA2015_Report.pdf

Dethlefs, N., Martin, B., Japanese Technology Policy for Aged Care, Science and Public Policy, Vol.33, Nr. 1, 2006, pp.45-57. https://doi.org/10.3152/147154306781779163

Katajapuu, N., Granholm, P., Hiramatsu, M., Ishihara, E., Hirayama, J., Pitkakangas, P., Luimula, M., Brain trainer exercise game. Field tests in Finland and Japan. International Journal of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Systems, Vol.1, 2016

“User-Centered Design Basics”, https://www.usability.gov/what-and-why/user-centered-design.html

Pyae, A., Raitoharju, R., Luimula, M., Pitkäkangas, P., Smed, J., Serious Games and Active Healthy Ageing: A Pilot Usability Testing of Existing Games. International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, Vol. 16, Nr. 1, 2015, doi: DOI: 10.1504/IJNVO.2016.075129

Pyae, A., Luimula, M., Smed, J., “Understanding stroke patients’ motivation for motivation-driven rehabilitative game design”. In R. Giaffreda, R-L Vieriu, E. Pasher, G. Bendersky, A. J. Jara, & J. J. P. C. Rodrigues (Eds.), Internet of Things. User-Centric IoT, 2015, pp. 99–111. Springer International. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-19656-5_16

Pyae, A., Mika, L., Smed, J., Rehabilitative Games for Stroke Patients. EAI Endorsed Transactions on Serious Games, 15(4: e2), 2015.

Nakai, A., Pyae, A., Luimula, M., Hongo, S., Vuola, H., Smed, J., Investigating the Effects of Motion-based Kinect Game System on User Cognition, Journal on Multimodal User Interfaces, Vol. 9, Nr. 4, 2015, pp. 403–411. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12193-015-0197-0

Pyae, A., Luimula, M., Smed, J., “Investigating the usability of interactive physical activity games for elderly: A pilot study”. 6th IEEE International Conference on Cognitive Infocommunications, 2015, pp. 185–193. https://doi.org/10.1109/CogInfoCom.2015.7390588

Pyae, A., Luimula, M., Smed, J., “Pre-studies on Using Digital Games for the Elderly’s Physical Activities”. In H. Li, P. Nykänen, R. Suomi, N. Wickramasinghe, G. Widén, & M. Zhan (Eds.), Building Sustainable Health Ecosystems: 6th International Conference on Well-Being in the Information Society, WIS 2016, Tampere, Finland, September 16-18, 2016, Proceedings (pp. 82-96). Cham: Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-44672-1_8

Luimula, M., Kattimeri, C., Katajapuu, N., Pitkäkangas, P., Malmivirta, H., Pyae, A., Liukkonen, T., Smed, J., Qvist, P., Gamified Solutions in Healthcare - Testing Rehabilitation Games in Finland and Asia. Acta Technica Jaurinensis, Vol.10, Nr. 1, 2017 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14513/actatechjaur.v10.n1.412

Breuer, J., Bente, G., Serious Games – An Overview. Eludamos, Journal for Computer Game Culture, Vol.4, Nr.1, 2007, pp. 7-24.

Kato, P. M., Video Games in Health Care: Closing the Gap. Review of General Psychology, Vol.14, Nr. 2, 2010, pp.113-121. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0019441

Taylor, M. J. D., McCormick, D., Shawis, T., Impson, R., Griffin, M., Activity-promoting gaming systems in exercise and rehabilitation, Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development, Vol.48, Nr.10, 2011, pp.1171-1186. https://doi.org/10.1682/JRRD.2010.09.0171

Santos, A., Guimarães, V., Matos, N., Cevada, J., Ferreira, C., Sousa, I., “Multi-sensor exercise-based interactive games for fall prevention and rehabilitation”. The Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Pervasive Computing Technologies for Healthcare, 2015, Istanbul, Turkey. https://doi.org/10.4108/icst.pervasivehealth.2015.259115

Sato, K., Kuroki, K., Saiki, S., Nagatomi, R., The effects of exercise intervention using KinectTM on healthy elderly individuals: A quasi-experimental study. Open Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, Vol.2, Nr. 1, 2014, pp.38-44 https://doi.org/10.4236/ojtr.2014.21008

Pisan, Y., Marin, J. G., Navarro, K. F., “Improving Lives: Using Microsoft Kinect to Predict the Loss of Balance for Elderly Users under Cognitive Load”. The Australasian Conference on Interactive Entertainment, 2013. https://doi.org/10.1145/2513002.2513026

Chao, Y.-Y., Scherer, Y. K., Montgomery, C. A., Effects of using Nintendo Wii Exergames in Older Adults: A Review of the literature. Journal of Aging and Health, Vol.27, Nr. 3, 2015, pp. 379-402. https://doi.org/10.1177/0898264314551171

Kaufman, D., Sauv, L., Renaud, L., Sixsmith, A., Mortenson, B., Older Adults' Digital Gameplay. Simul. Gaming, Vol.47, Nr. 4, 2016, pp.465-489. doi:10.1177/1046878116645736

Pyae, A., Liukkonen, T. N., Luimula, M., Kattimeri, C., Smed, J, Investigating the Finnish elderly people’s user experiences in playing digital game-based skiing exercise: A usability study. Gerontechnology, Vol.16, Nr. 2, 2017, pp.65-80 https://doi.org/10.4017/gt.2017.

Pyae et al., Investigating the Finnish Elderly People’s Attitudes and Motivation towards Digital Game-Based Physical Exercises. Finnish Journal of eHealth and eWelfare, 2017.

Pyae, A., Liukkonen, T. N., Saarenpää, T., Luimula, M., Granholm, P., Smed, J., When Japanese Elderly People Play a Finnish Physical Exercise Game: A Usability Study. Journal of Usability Studies, 11(4), 2016, pp.131–152.

Katajapuu, N et al., Brain trainer exercise game. Field tests in Finland and Japan. International Journal of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Systems, Vol. 1, 2016.

Katajapuu, N et al., Benefits of Exergame Exercise on Physical Functioning of Elderly People. 8th IEEE International Conference on Cognitive InfoCommunications, 2017.

IJsselsteijn, W.A., de Kort, Y.A.W., Poels, K., Development of the Game Experience Questionnaire (GEQ). Manuscript in preparation.

IJsselsteijn, W.A., de Kort, Y.A.W., & Poels, K., The game experience questionnaire: Development of a self-report measure to assess the psychological impact of digital games. Manuscript in preparation.

Renaud, K., van Biljon, J., “Predicting technology acceptance and adoption by the elderly: A qualitative study”. Proceedings of the SAICSIT 2008, Wilderness Beach Hotel, Wilderness, South Africa. https://doi.org/10.1145/1456659.1456684

Pyae, A., Liukkonen, T. N., Saarenpää, T., Luimula, M., Granholm, P., Smed, J. When Japanese Elderly People Play a Finnish Physical Exercise Game: A Usability Study. Journal of Usability Studies, Vol.11, Nr. 4, 2016, pp.131–152.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17083/ijsg.v4i4.183


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Serious Games Society

Creative Commons LicenseThe International Journal of Serious Games (IJSG) by Serious Games Society is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.