Unlocking COVID-19 Play Options: Adapting Serious Design to Pandemic Friendly Game Mediums

Scott DeJong, Constance Lafontaine and Kimberly Sawchuk


In 2020 the in-person, collaborative puzzle solving of commercial and educational escape rooms was forced to adapt to COVID-19 lockdowns. Our previously developed social justice escape game broaching the role of bystanders in instances of older adult mistreatment required adjustment for pandemic times and prompted the question: what types of games and affordances would allow us to build a serious game about mistreatment? Through a literature review of commercial adaptations of escape games, we analyzed a variety of game types as potential avenues for our serious game. Adopting a co-creative design approach, we built game prototypes that studied how a serious game concept (Older Adult Mistreatment) changes when adapted to different game types. This paper discusses the opportunities and challenges that arose in this process and shows the meaningful affordances that designers and academics should consider in their design. It concludes with insights on how game types meaningfully frame content.