Duke Graduate School

Thesis Project

Expanding Video Game Accessibility through Hands-Free Virtual Reality UX Design

My thesis project focuses on creating a virtual reality interface that relies solely on head movements, allowing people with limited-motion to effectively navigate the interface.


One of the great affordances of virtual reality technology is that the motion sensors in the headset allow the user to communicate with the machine without using their hands. Yet virtual reality games heavily rely on hand controllers for navigation and gameplay. I aim to design an interface that is useful in a variety of limited motion situations, such as long-term hospital stays, airplanes, chemotherapy treatments, waiting rooms, and so on.

My thesis is still in development. The following projects are products of my research as of May 2020 and are building toward the final paper (expected in December 2020). Contact me for recent updates and details.

Super Smash Bros. Playable Character Gender Analysis

The goal of this project is to determine if Nintendo has become more inclusive to non-male characters in the Super Smash Bros series over time. This is explored in two ways: by counting the number of characters who have been assigned each gender, and by examining the visual aspects of the characters to determine if they appear male or female.

Changing video games to make them more inclusive to girls, women, and characters that look like (non-sexualized) girls and women is one way to start changing the tides in video game culture. Super Smash Bros. is played by millions of people around the world and is the perfect space to create a powerful nuanced playable non-sexualized female character.

Games, Productivity and Happiness Video

I created an animated video explaining how games are designed to motivate behavior using flow and fiero. This video was created to summarize some of my game design research and teach people about how game design techniques can be used to make home, school, and work environments more joyful and productive. I edited this footage in Adobe Premiere Pro and animated it using Adobe After Effects.

Limited-Motion Gameplay in Virtual Reality Design Document

Video games have proven to be more useful than simple fun— games help people learn, relax, and bond with others, as well as inspire, energize, and empower. These benefits have long eluded those who cannot play video games due to limited motion, as virtually all video game consoles require the use of hand controllers or at least a keyboard and mouse.


As a part of my thesis research, I created a design document to encompass what I have studied about game design, virtual reality interfaces, and disability studies thus far. This document explores a hands-free virtual reality interface design and includes background information on gamification concepts such as flow and fiero and discussions regarding existing hands-free virtual reality experiences.

This design document is just a small step toward the creation of my larger thesis project. In the future, I intend to expand on the ideas and research discussed in this document.

Casual Games and Happiness Research Paper

This research paper summarizes what I have learned from studying casual games, game design, and the psychology of happiness and productivity. I decided that designing an interface for a casual game would be most suitable for my thesis project target audience. This document explains why I chose a casual game.

I also describe a project I created using the Unreal Engine. The project is strictly technical and is designed to demonstrate the simple implementation of real-time day-night cycles and local weather in games. These were created in the Unreal Engine node-based programing interface Blueprints.

© 2020 by Andrea Brucculeri   ·   andrea.brucculeri@duke.edu   ·   Durham, NC

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