PlayersAll: Media Agency and Empowerment is an exploratory study of games research, Serious Games (applied games), and upper-limb rehabilitation therapy in a media and agency perspective funded by the FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia) under grant EXPL/COM-OUT/0882/2021, and ongoing since January 2022. PlayersAll explores what happens when therapy games treat therapy clients as players instead of just targets for clinical outcomes.
PlayersAll is about the potential of games. Therapeutic games have, for the most part, underutilized certain aspects of the true potential of games. How much more could therapeutic games achieve if they embraced this potential? Games are non-literal and offer explicit goals. These aspects are not incidental; they are the very basis of the distinctive way in which games engender new meanings, where this meaningfulness occurs in addition to any practical purpose to Serious Games and deepens that purpose.
PlayersAll studies the Village Druid game and its development process in how the Village Druid game seeks to deliver the potential of games in therapy. The Village Druid is a Virtual Reality motion-tracked game where interaction with the game consists of upper-limb therapy exercises. The Village Druid is being developed with an adaptive narrative engine and an adaptive difficulty content selection engine, besides consulting with rehabilitation therapists for clinical relevance of the game. By providing an adaptive narrative and a more game-like sense of progression, the Village Druid is bringing the potential of games more fully to rehabilitation.
PlayersAll is a media ethnography study of the Village Druid VR game’s development process as well as taking over decision-making in that process towards the game’s design and development goals, as action-research. These processes involve live user-testing and interviews with rehabilitation patients and how they feel about being testers for the game, as well as involving other stakeholder, such as therapists, and the game’s developers. PlayersAll has already undertaken several missions to real clinical contexts for rehabilitation.
The ultimate goal of PlayersAll is to explore a new dimension of games literacy, in the sense of how much do people can feel othered or included by playtesting, towards expanding the understanding of agency in game design.