Yale Professor Creating Game to Teach The Risks of Being Sexually Active

November 18, 2011 -

While those who don't know anything at all about video games are quick to use them as an excuse for many of society’s ills (crime, violence, obesity, attention deficit and a myriad of psychological disorders), now everyone thinks they are bad. In fact a growing number of academics see the value in video games as teaching aids. For example, a Yale professor is trying to use them to teach sex education.

The Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention hosted a lecture by Lynn R. Fiellin, an associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine on Thursday, as part of its lecture series. Fiellin gave a lecture called "The Game of Science and the Science of the Game," which explored a video game she is helping to develop which helps inner city youth better understand the risks associated with sex. The game teaches about the risks of HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies that will likely result from unprotected sex.

During the lecture Fiellin detailed the development process she and her colleagues are using to create this new type of video game. Fiellin explained how Farnam Neighborhood Help, an after-school and weekend programs for inner-city youth in New Haven, served as the site of many of her studies and interviews. Fiellin met with many of the youths there and discussed what they considered normal sexual activity and what the risks were associated with such activities. In talking with the kids she learned that many understood that pregnancy was a risk, because they had peers who had become pregnant.

"Pregnancy is much more proximal to them, so if we can demonstrate that there is a risk of HIV and STDs resulting from the same behavior that causes pregnancy, it may be easier for them to imagine," Fiellin said.

After conducting the interviews, Fiellin and her colleagues teamed with with Schell Games. Jesse Schell, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University and author of "Art of Game Design," took an academic approach to the project.

The video game, now in development, uses what Fiellin calls an "aspirational avatar." This type of avatar forces players to imagine what their end goal is, what they want in the future, and what the best way to negotiate that is.

"I used to love the game ‘Life.' Just like I was invested in those two little plastic playing pieces, players of this game will be invested in making good choices," Fiellin said.

The HIV prevention video game will target inner-city youth from ages 11 to 14. The goal of the game is to improve understanding of HIV and risky behaviors. Data will be gathered through game play, in order to give a better understanding of the players' choices.

At the end of the day the goal of the game is to delay the initiation of sexual activity, according to Fiellin.

"If it's effective or if components of it are effective, it can be models for other games, whether it be to educate about teen drinking, driving, smoking or something else," Fiellin said.

The game project remains nameless for the time being, though.

"We don't have a name yet, so if anyone has a brilliant name, let me know," said Fiellin.

Update: We erroneously reported in the title to this story that a "Harvard" professor was working on a game, when she in fact works at Yale. Yale fans will no doubt be agitated by this error. We apologize for the mistake.

Source: Daily Campus


Comments

Re: Harvard Professor Creating Game to Teach The Risks of ...

I am against a game that has a goal of delaying sexual activity. Teaching the risks and how to protect against HIV that is fine but telling them to not have sex is not.

If they have sex with condoms will there still be a problem?

Will it Teach them not only the risk but also the joy?

Just remember cant stop human nature, And trying to is dangerous.

Re: Harvard Professor Creating Game to Teach The Risks of ...

Such a game already exists, though it's nowhere near as comprehensive as this one strives to be:  it's called School Days and covers a wide array of the problems that teenagers face, including young love, underage sexuality, bullying, depression, teen pregnancy, and suicide.  The story has received an animated adaptation; those who have already seen it can swear that its ending is something you won't be forgetting anytime soon.

The game's HD remake is being released in English within the next year, and the animated version can be streamed for free at Crunchyroll.  If you've ever heard the meme "Nice Boat", this is where the expression came from.

Suffice to say, Fiellin's project could be very interesting if done right.  I 'm worried that the writing in it may be as forced and preachy as an afterschool special, but I hope for the best.

Re: Harvard Professor Creating Game to Teach The Risks of ...

now everyone thinks they are bad. In fact a growing number of academics see the value in video games as teaching aids. For example, a Yale professor is trying to use them to teach sex education.

Might want to fix the typo. I don't think that's what you meant. Not everyone thinks games are bad.

Re: Harvard Professor Creating Game to Teach The Risks of ...

Copy edit.. where can it be found? So is this a Harvard professor or a Yale professor? The title says Harvard and then the article has no mention of that school ever. 

Also, normally typos don't bother me, but when they completely change the meaning of a sentence, i.e. 

now everyone thinks they are bad.

Come on, now..

Re: Harvard Professor Creating Game to Teach The Risks of ...

And how long before the PTC complains. :/

-------

"WARNING GUARANTEE: This post contains material which a truly free society would neither fear nor suppress."

Re: Harvard Professor Creating Game to Teach The Risks of ...

Or the 'abstinence only' faction comes in and decrys how horrible it is that children might learn to do things safely and that the only hope for those little inner city kids is to scare them to Christianity, then they will magically not have sex till marriage. 

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