05 Apr, 2012


One should be able to step outside, take a deep breath of fresh air and take on their day. After all, clean air is an undeniable right for all. Unfortunately, this is not the reality of today’s world. In Fresno, CA, school children find themselves peeking out classroom windows to check the color of the air quality flags. They dread the yellow and red flags and long for a glimpse of the green. On the red flag days, all children are required to spend recess inside and kids with Asthma are often bullied as the ones to blame.The Social Apps Lab questions this dichotomy. What if one can shift- through the power of gameplay- the focus from an individual problem to a collective problem, in which all work together to create necessary change?

AirQuest’s objective is to make scientific data playable and accessible to all. At the Social Apps Lab, players are engaging in a game about pollutants that transmit asthma triggers through the air. The main character, Kean, is a 14 year old high school student with asthma. Kean feels weak and isolated as a result of his condition. As the game progresses, he finds friends, a patient support group, and ultimately a voice with which to call for ecological justice in the San Joaquin Valley. To increase his power, he learns to fight, to decode climate maps, and to get around the valley on a bike- even when air quality is low.

The game is a response to the problem that asthma is often cast as a negative, individual experience rather than an extreme and early response to a crisis that affects all people. The objective of the game is to shift player’s reasoning from air quality as someone else’s problem to air quality as an immediate and concrete issue that extends beyond the individual. Careful pre-play and post-play tests among focus groups will show if the game has the desired impact. Integrating design feedback from users will help the lab optimize the game for its release on Android platform tablets on the Android Market in July of 2012.

AirQuest is not an merely an action game, it is a civic action game. After validation of the approach in San Joaquin Valley, the AirQuest team will develop a Version 2.0 expanded release of the game which will include Oakland, Los Angeles, and Riverside as additional playable locations.

Through shifting this individual perception of asthma to a collective one, the game creates a channel in which separate voices can come together to create change for a healthier life and a healthier world.

Read more about AirQuest and other Social Apps Lab projects

Meet The AirQuest Team