Videogames are great for entertainment and stress relief, but a new plan created by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine hopes to utilize the medium to combat the spread of HIV.
This initiative, dubbed "Play2Prevent" aims to educate young people deemed "at-risk" for the transmission of the HIV through the use of informative games and educational materials and "targeted interventions" by trained professionals.
Like the GameSave hackathon we reported on earlier this month, Play2Prevent is built on the ideals of the serious games movement. Specifically, the concept that videogames are an attractive, user-friendly way to disseminate information to people in a quick and efficient fashion.
"Games are powerful tools in helping people explore roles and risks before life makes them all-too-real and risky," states Yale associate professor of medicine Dr. Lynn E. Fiellin. "The Play2Prevent initiative focused on helping its players meet the challenges at-risk youth must face head on."
The Play2Prevent program will be developed over the next 18 months, before being tested on 300 students in New Haven, Connecticut. If the program proves successful, the researchers hope to have the game running on low-end PC tablet devices sometime in the next year.
I like this plan a lot, though the pessimist in me wonders if this will even make a dent in the issue. Even discounting all the other HIV/AIDS vectors, the process of educating people in safe sex alone has to contend with very real parts of our modern world in which people consider condoms anathema by virtue of their religious beliefs. These are the same regions that, in an example of the universe's sick sense of humor, also boast our planet's highest incidence of sexual assault.
The serious games concept is sound and I'm certainly a proponent, but the full extent of its powers to help the grim corners of human existence have yet to be tested.