Graduation Date


Document Type

Capstone Project

Project Type

Qualitative Study

Degree Name

Master of Science in Occupational Therapy


Occupational Therapy

Program Chair

Julia Wilbarger, PhD, OTR/L

Faculty Advisor

Laura Hess, PhD, OTR/L


Purpose: This qualitative study examined the lived experience and motor phenomena that occur in people with disabilities during the occupation of video gaming. Historically, the occupation of video gaming, also referred to as gaming, has not been inclusive of individuals with disabilities due to the design of traditional video gaming controllers. Typical gaming controllers require fine motor control, finger dexterity, and in-hand manipulation to grasp and use the controls on the device. Although, many people with disabilities do not have the fine motor skills required to access these devices, creating a barrier for this population to engage in the occupation of gaming. Through a literature review, the researchers found that current research is primarily focused on gaming utilized as a remedial therapeutic approach to rehabilitation. However, gaming has yet to be empirically examined as an occupation. To address the gaps in literature, the following research questions were developed: (1) What are the lived experiences of gamers and their families utilizing an adaptive gaming device? and (2) What motor phenomena can be observed during the occupation of gaming as evidenced by video, audio, and field notes data?

Methods: Researchers of this study established a weekly Games Club, which included four participants (N=4), ages 5-27, who engaged in an adaptive gaming experience using the Microsoft Xbox™ Adaptive Controller. The gamers and their families participated in one session of Games Club; the COVID-19 pandemic required the subsequent gaming sessions to be cancelled. Semi-structured interviews were conducted at baseline and follow-up to examine the lived experiences of families and gamers. Observational data was collected through field notes and audio/video recordings during game play to develop motor phenomena themes.

Results: Preliminary qualitative analyses of lived experience and motor phenomena were conducted from the first session of Games Club. The following themes were developed to illustrate gamers’ lived experiences: Customization, Belonging and inclusion, Enjoyment, and the Impact of COVID-19. Motor phenomena themes that developed from coding observational data included: Collaboration, Motor analysis, Switches and placement, Multiple body points of contact, Changes in Motor Engagement, and Attention and enjoyment.

Discussion/OT Practice Implications: The results of this qualitative pilot study indicated that adaptive gaming is a meaningful and intrinsically motivating occupation that promotes inclusion for individuals with disabilities. Adaptive gaming also has the potential to be both socially and motorically beneficial for gamers. The Xbox™ Adaptive Controller allows occupational therapists to grade the activity to create a customizable “just right challenge” for the gamer. Occupational therapists who wish to incorporate adaptive gaming into their practice have the potential to promote inclusion and socialization for individuals with disabilities.

IRB Number


Available for download on Friday, December 01, 2023