FFHI Teams with Video Gaming's Finest to Create a Health Video Game

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Video games are often blamed for keeping children sedentary, which contributes to rising child obesity. But a newly funded collaboration at the FFHI aims to turn what has been seen as a problem into a solution. FFHI has teamed with the School of Education and Play4Change Lab to create an online 'serious' game that inspires kids to take charge of their health. This unique collaboration was recently awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Cyberlearning: Transforming Education program.

The project, named #GetUp, is founded on the educational potential of gaming, and seeks to understand just how game-based learning can drive ‘real life’ change in children’s health behavior. The idea is that kids wear physical activity monitors on a regular basis and upload data from the devices –steps, distance, calories burned, and stairs climbed per day– into a game where their actual activity achievements and nutrition knowledge impacts their virtual journeys. 

“It will be exciting to see if learning through gaming translates to every day life,“ says Sara Schaefer, Ph.D., #GetUp’s Project Manager and FFHI’s Associate Director of Children’s Health and Education Program.

The all-star project team is led by Cynthia Carter Ching, Ph.D., expert in the use of technology for learning, and FFHI Director, Bruce German, Ph.D., a worldwide champion of personalized health and diet. Ariel Hauter leads Play4Change Lab, a nonprofit in the space of “gaming for social good.”

Excitingly, this novel opportunity to create games for health has attracted big name designers, including Creative Director, Robin Hunicke, whose resume includes “The Sims2” and “Journey.” Chelsea Howe, of Zynga fame, has been hired as the Designer; her recent recognitions include Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business and she received the Microsoft WIG Rising Star award.

Youth are involved in every stage of #GetUp’s development including design, testing and launching; this is facilitated by the UC Davis School of Education’s partnership with the California Afterschool Network. The project team is also harnessing the creativity of university students through a course on health data visualization led by graduate student Matthew Lange. Students learn to use health data to generate story-telling visualizations and experiment by plugging graphic narratives into game prototypes at different stages in development.

By engaging kids in Quantified Self-inspired heath tracking combined with educational feedback via virtual worlds, #GetUp is opening up new possibilities for gaming in education and health spaces. The eventual goal is for kids to use the game both at home and in schools where it is aligned with STEM and health curricula on personal health management.