Researchers at Yale are developing a video game for the iPad that hopes to prevent HIV infection among ethnic minority adolescents through the use of interactive entertainment. Their research is based on the entire process appears in Games for Health, a new journal focused on using game technology as a tool for improving health and well-being.
The Yale research team interviewed three dozen adolescent boys and girls in New Haven, Connecticut to figure out what factors might encourage or discourage risky behaviors. Using this data, comprised mostly of first-hand reports, they are trying to develop a video game that will serve as sort of an "intervention" that will be tailored and relevant to specific at-risk populations.
Researchers believe that the 10 to 15-year-old age group is particularly vulnerable to engaging in risky behavior. They base this on 2009 research that found that 33 percent of 9th graders reported having had sexual intercourse, with one-third of them reporting not using a condom during their last sexual encounter. In addition, the research found that ethnic minority youth are disproportionately affected by HIV infection. In 2009, 73 percent of diagnoses of HIV infection among 13 to 19-year-olds were in African Americans.
Lead author Kimberly Hieftje, an associate research scientist and a member of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS at Yale, said it is very important to reach this age group and intervene.
"It is vitally important that we reach this age group with interventions that reflect where they are — that is, playing games," she said. "We hope using video games as a delivery vehicle will increase their level of engagement, with greater opportunities for positive and enduring behavior change."
The video game is called Playforward: Elm City Stories, and is being developed with Digitalmill and Schell Games. In the game, players traverse an interactive world, facing challenges and making decisions about those challenges that bring different risks and benefits. The game presents players with a way to see how their choices affect their lives. More importantly, the game also offers players a chance to "do over" and avoid the mistakes they made previously.
Research for this project is funded by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at Yale. Other authors involved in the project and research include Lynn Fiellin, Marjorie Rosenthal, Deepa Camenga, and E. Jennifer Edelman of Yale.
The game was shown off in demo form at the Games For Change Festival in June.
Source: Health News Digest