Child Appropriate Game Design (CAGD)

Call for Participants: Click Here for Info!

A Kids Play Tech Lab Research Project

The Children and Age-Appropriate Game Design (or “Child Appropriate Game Design” (CAGD) for short) project explores how ideas about “age appropriateness” impact how digital games are designed, regulated, and played. Led by Dr. Sara Grimes (Principal Investigator, University of Toronto, Canada), Dr. Darshana Jayemanne (Abertay University, Scotland), and Dr. Seth Giddings (University of Southampton, England), our findings will help guide policy development and industry approaches to child players over the coming years, while ensuring that children’s rights, needs and vulnerabilities are better supported in regulatory responses and in future applications of “age appropriate design” in games made especially for children.

Digital games are more popular than ever among children of increasingly younger ages. Games appear in a variety of children’s spaces and are played on many devices. Gaming provides kids with exciting ways to connect, play, create, and learn. However, it also introduces urgent new questions relating to children’s rights (including privacy rights), responsibilities, and potential vulnerabilities as they enter into uncharted, and largely unregulated, territories. From loot boxes and in-game harassment, to commercial surveillance and disinformation, it’s increasingly hard to know what  kids will encounter when they start playing a new game, and how to make sure their rights and best interests are being supported.

In Canada, the UK, and the US there is rising interest among the public, game industry, and policymakers in revisiting how children’s games are regulated, designed, played, and classified. The CAGD project seeks to understand: the emergence of “age appropriate design” as a key framework for protecting children’s privacy and other rights in the digital environment; children’s own thoughts and experiences of how games are rated, regulated, and designed “for” them; and how children’s game developers are responding to the shifting regulatory and social landscape as they make games for children.

For the next three years, our team will share our research findings on this website and in a number of formats: annual reports, articles, children’s books, a podcast, and more. Throughout the project, we will also present our work at conferences. Examples include:

  • International Communication Association 2023 Preconference: Games and the (Playful) Future of Communication May 25th at the University of Toronto – Mississauga
  • International Association of Privacy Professionals – Canada Privacy Symposium 2023 – May 27th at Westin Harbour Castle Toronto Hotel
  • Canadian Communication Association 2023 Annual Conference May 31st at York University
  • 2023 DiGRA International Conference June 19th – June 23rd at the University of Seville

New: The CAGD team has joined forces with A-Game Studios on a new game project funded by the Canada Media Fund and Ontario Creates. We’ll be using (testing and applying) findings and best practices identified in our focus groups and policy analysis to make a children’s rights-by-design game. We’ll document our process and share any useful tools we develop along the way, including a children’s rights-by-design checklist and a sample workflow/schedule. Details can be found here.

The CAGD project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada, with in-kind support from the Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI). Dr. Jayemanne’s contributions are supported by InGAME: Innovation for Games and Media Enterprise, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/S002871/1).