Pwning Asthma Triggers: Health Games as Technologies of Social Engagement

15 Jun, 2011

Pwning Asthma Triggers: Health Games as Technologies of Social Engagement

Games have a considerable history of introducing novel models of thinking to communities through non-standard paths of transformation and informal learning, especially concerning political conflict or uncertainty. Referring to Greiger, 1975, Jeff Wright (1978) states that:

The value of simulation games in the study of policy analysis results from their unique ability to present an explicit statement of conflict in terms of different, uncertain, and changing social values, and to provide a mechanism capable of simulating the resolution of that conflict.

The team is combining three strategies: data mining, anthropological field work, and dramatization through game design. We create game applications based on previous works (Black Cloud, 2008, and PokerWalk, 2010) which engage players as researchers in an urban health mystery. Where does pollution originate? When will asthma-triggering pollution strike? In our game design, we will correlate spatial maps of public records and scenarios of future climate change and population growth with gameplay data to see if players develop effective strategies in a simulated game environment to manage asthma triggers and optimize their healthcare.

A “first-playable” version of our game will be developed in html5 for broad adoption across multiple platforms and presented to focus groups in our two research sites for evaluation. Results will indicate which of several data dramatizations will generate the strongest social engagement among participants. In particular, we are interested in seeing which game design approaches will lead to intrinsic incentives for replay and adoption of the game as opposed to replay values driven by extrinsic incentives such as access to media, free minutes, or gift certificates.

Principal Investigator: Greg Niemeyer (UC Berkeley Department of Art Practice)
Co-PIs: James Holston (UC Berkeley Department of Anthropology)
Inez Fung (Berkeley Institute of the Environment, UC Berkeley)
Qing Hua Guo (School of Engineering, Sierra Nevada Research Institute, UC Merced)

This project has been awarded a CITRIS Seed Funding Grant for 2011.