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Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd, South
Fort Myers, FL 33965-6565
(239) 590-1000 or (800) 590-3428

LAUREN MATHES

UPSIDE: THE GAME

Senior Project FALL 2017


Board games are a long held tradition and a celebrated catalyst for family bonding. From early childhood, with games like Candyland, to more adult games, like Uno or poker, there is nearly a game for every stage of human development. Not only are games a fun way to get to know someone or spend time with a group of people, but they have the ability to teach and even help heal. Looking at play therapy and other alternative uses for board games, I began to develop UPSIDE, specifically for use by people with dementia and their families. I developed a game based around deep research about the progression of the disease and how it affects the body physically and emotionally. I wanted UPSIDE to serve two purposes, first it should be something designed to be easy for the person with dementia to learn and to guide them through the game with visual cues, second I would like it to exemplify to the caretakers that the person they love is still capable of having meaningful connections and they’re still able to participate in social activities.


My own family has been affected by dementia, my grandmother has been living with the disease for years and we’ve watched it progress, turning a simple night of dinner and board games into something a little more frustrating. I made this game with my grandma in mind, she was vital to the testing of the game to see what works and what didn’t. But most importantly through my own experiences with my grandma, I got a first-hand look at how communication is more difficult, yet still worth the struggle. Even though she doesn’t remember our conversations or forgets what she’s doing between turns, her presence is still important and special. Through UPSIDE, I hope other families have the opportunity to see past something scary and sad and remember that their loved one is still with them and capable of meaningful connections and fun times.


Keeping in mind my two goals for the project, I began researching how dementia progresses, the psychology behind game design, and care philosophy for people with dementia. All of this culminated in the knowledge that there are three stages to dementia and that each stage is unique and that each person with the disease has a unique experience. I decided that I wanted
UPSIDE to be customizable, allowing the families and caretakers to make the choices about what they think their loved one can handle, allowing the game to be played with the least amount of stress for everyone involved. This customization is available through the cards in the game, as the game is played by a player picking up a card with directions clearly stated and the player following the directions until they reach the end. There are three decks of cards, each corresponding to the three stages of the disease, which allows the family to choose which deck would be best to use. I also made rule cards which would allow the person with dementia to hold on to the rules for the entire game, encouraging a sense of independence. As I mentioned, encouraging quality time among family was my second goal when creating this game, which led to the creation of communication tips. These tips and conversation starters found in the rule booklet are meant to teach the family and caretakers of people with dementia how to engage with their family members. It is my hope that by playing my game people will be able to reconnect with their family members and have fun while doing it.