Research on serious games is intensifying between China and Finland

SAMK’s first research article together with Changzhou University will be published in a conference on serious games in Australia in April. This is a significant opening in terms of research cooperation.

28.2.2017 | By: Inna Saarinen | Photo: Antti Koivisto

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Sari Merilampi conducting research in Changzhou in China.

The article is called The Cognitive Mobile Games for Older Adults − A Chinese User Experience Study and it discusses the applicability and user experiences of Finnish games for people with a memory disease in China.

“Cooperation with our Chinese partner university was first started because there is a great need for competence in elderly care in China. SAMK, on the other hand, has a lot of expertise in technology related to ageing”, Project Manager and Researcher Sari Merilampi explains.

“Previously our work was Europe-oriented and it is interesting to see how Chinese culture affects the research work. It was impossible to know in advance whether the same things would work in China as in Finland” she says.

The countries share the same enthusiasm

A memory game application was tested in China in the same way as in Finland. The situation where the application was introduced was surprisingly similar in both countries. There was enthusiasm in both in China and in Finland as well as an understanding of the fact that games and memory have a clear connection.

“However, there were also some things which manifested cultural differences. Chinese people hoped for more graphics to the games. Finns did not think graphics was important. However, culture seemed to have no effect on the experience of the technology. I assumed that the impact would have been stronger”, Sari Merilampi explains.

In China elderly people play more board games than in Finland. Therefore, the nursing staff was rather sceptical of digital games in the beginning. They doubted people’s skills and interest in the games.

“When the games were introduced, I’m not quite sure who were more excited the elderly or the nurses who were awfully delighted of the elderly’s skills”, Sari Merilampi sneers.

Starting in a small scale

The research has also involved researchers from the Faculty of Biomedicine of Tampere University of Technology.  Sari Merilampi’s colleague Johanna Virkki is an experienced visitor to China. The strategic partners of Tampere University of Technology are in Nanjing, which is close to Changzhou. It has been easy for Sari and Jonanna to cooperate and to present contacts to each other. A lot of research is being conducted on how to use mobile technology in elderly care both in China and in Finland.

According to Sari Merilampi the Chinese approach to everything is to start in a small scale. There is no point in asking what kind of things you want. Instead, it is important to take small concrete steps and then advance into bigger things. In research work it is important to go on a fishing expedition before going too far. Everything should be tested first.

“In Finland mobile memory games are tested in day care for the elderly for half a year. A similar period will start in China, too. Later, we can expand cooperation into other fields, e.g. theses and projects. First, it is important to find the right way to do things and the right people. However, this is a concrete opening for research cooperation. Appropriate companies should get involved as well. The market in China is huge” Merilampi says