A Video Game to Help the Fight Against the Vicious Tapeworm in Africa
Keywords:games for children, prevention, Education
The pork tapeworm, Taenia solium, is the agent causing the most important parasitic infection worldwide due to its substantial economic and health impacts, disproportionally affecting low-income countries. Health education should form a core component in control efforts and sustain control strategies proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO), such as human treatments. Traditional health education methods have shown to be less effective. Therefore, in the field of tropical medicine, new, engaging ways to teach affected populations are needed. Within the project ‘Gaming 4 Health’ we developed an educational video game aimed at instructing school-going children in low-income countries about the tapeworm and how to prevent it. Building on the principles of gamified learning and the self-determination theory, we created the educational video game the ‘Tapeworm game’. The game was developed by a multidisciplinary team, following the game design research cycle which included five steps: game planning, game design, prototyping, play testing and evaluation. The Tapeworm game is a multi-player video game set in an African village. The game’s objective is to educate players about the tapeworm and how to prevent the the spread of disease. Players create their own avatar and learn about disease prevention by exploring the village, engaging in minigames and preforming complementary actions, such as washing hands and visiting the toilet. Points are earned by playing the minigames and performing the actions correctly within a given time. The more points a player accumulates, the higher they climb on the leader boards. Rewards are unlocked based on performance and competence and displayed as stars, badges, and avatar customizations. This makes the game exiting and keeps children fully immersed, motivating them to learn, improve and continue playing the videogame. With this videogame our goal is to educate, raise awareness and advance the control of the pork tapeworm as part of the WHO’s 2030 goals for Neglected Tropical Diseases.