Cops & Rubbers wins Best Overall Non-Digital Game at Meaningful Play 2014

Thank you to the Meaningful Play 2014 committee and Michigan State for a really meaningful, radical, and fun conference! I especially enjoyed meeting other academics from a variety of disciplines coming together and exploring the meaning that can be embedded in game systems. Thanks to everyone who checked out and played Cops and Rubbers, Humans vs. Mosquitoes, and Vanity at the game exhibition. A highlight was meeting my co-panelist Dan Jackson, a lawyer by trade and director of Northeastern University’s NuLawLab, and sharing our experiences on the Games for Legal Services panel. I look forward to connect with Dan and Steph Kimbro (an original panelist who couldn’t make it to Meaningful Play) in the future about our progress with legal games.

Another highlight was receiving the Best Overall Non-Digital Game Award for Cops and Rubbers. Check out photos of Cops and Rubbers at Meaningful Play!

Invoking the Pause: Creating Games for the Caribbean Climate

[vimeo width=”600″ height=”365″ video_id=”107395655″]

Thanks to funding from Invoking the Pause, I was able to travel to Barbados to organize a workshop exploring communication of climate risk using game systems. As a result of this unique funding opportunity, the University of Miami’s School of Communication (UM), the IFRC Red Cross Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Reference Center (CADRIM), and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCCC), were able to partner together for the first time and to introduce an innovative approach to reaching climate risk stakeholders in the Caribbean in June.

The following article was originally posted on UM’s School of Communication website in October 2014. For more information on the Let’s Adapt workshop, please visit the University of Miami’s Invoking the Pause grant website and the Let’s Adapt event page.

Professor Tran specializes in games designed to make a positive social impact by either making players advocate for policy reform, like the condoms as evidence of prostitution policy, or educating undocumented youth on their rights. Games are becoming increasingly more popular for organizations that have trouble explaining tough concepts (like climate change) that can have long-term consequences. While the RCCC has been using climate games and system simulation games steadily across Africa and Asia, it has identified but not yet had the capacity to introduce these game-based communication tools in the Caribbean. Professor Tran along with Reynette Royer (CADRIM), Mini Saraswati (RCCC), and UM’s Professor Clay Ewing facilitated a two-day games workshop entitled “Let’s Adapt: Games for Climate Change Resiliency” to help introduce these concepts in the Caribbean.

Workshop participants represented the Barbados Red Cross, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Caribbean Institute for Meteorology & Hydrology (CIMH), Community Disaster Response Teams (CDRT), and the University of the West Indies’ Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES). By connecting relevant parties from Barbados and around the region on new participatory approaches to adaptation, this workshop explored how interactive resources and game-based activities can assist in the task of communicating climate change information and invoking grassroots participation within Caribbean communities.

The beginning of the workshop served as an introduction to what makes a game a game, and reasons why games provide a better alternative to learn about these tough issues as opposed to the standard PowerPoint lecture. Games can provide a flexible way for different types of audiences to learn in small doses, while providing an active learning environment where you can interact with peers. After this short game introduction, workshop participants played Paying for Predictions and Match It and also played and began adapting Humans vs. Mosquitoes and Let’s Get Ready (based on an existing RCCC game called Ready). Many of the games can be played with simple materials that you can find at a grocery or convenience store, which helped reinforce the concept that you don’t need much to make a game that teaches important real-world lessons.

Participants also found the game Humans vs. Mosquitoes particularly topical as it addressed a major concern in the region: vector-borne diseases, including dengue fever and chikungunya. The general consensus was that both awareness and mitigation of these diseases is essential, especially as the prevalence has increased in the Caribbean with shifts in climate. Another benefit of playing Humans vs. Mosquitoes was to show how the same message could be translated in two formats: a gesture-based game requiring no special materials and a professionally designed and printed card game.

There were also some unexpected results in the areas of capacity development and partnerships from the workshop. The cooperation and engagement between the workshop organizers has formed an informal non-traditional partnership between UM’s School of Communication and the Red Cross’s CADRIM center, including consideration for other opportunities whereby a reciprocal internship program or similar type of activity could foster creative skills development for students based in both the United States and the Caribbean. Additionally, the extensive research and experience of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre presents exciting proposals for bi-lateral partnerships in the Caribbean related to tools development and research with institutions in the region. While the hope for the workshop was to spark interest beyond the 2-day agenda, the extent to which it has already is far beyond expectations. Professor Tran and her workshop collaborators see this workshop as the first in a series of collaborative initiatives aimed at further innovating actions to increase awareness and resilience in the Caribbean.

 

UM’s inaugural CoLab course is all about WWF and FSC

This Fall 2014 semester I’m running the inaugural MFA in Interactive Media CoLab class, which is a class where students create interactive solutions for a professional client. The students and I are very excited to be working with the U.S. chapter of World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US) located in Washington D.C.

The semester started out with students researching WWF-US and brainstorming ideas for how the organization can connect with the Millennial generation and encourage environmental advocacy. In mid-September, Sara Thomas (University of Miami alumna) and Kerry Green Zobor from WWF-US joined us in Coral Gables, FL, for a 2-day intensive ideation and design workshop. By the end of the workshop, two teams identified two different campaigns that engage the Millennial generation on the benefits of purchasing Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) sustainable wood products.

On October 6, 2014, 6 of the CoLab students and I traveled to Washington, D.C. to present the 2 campaign concepts to WWF staff. We received excellent response and feedback to the initial concepts, and we even got an exclusive tour of WWF’s green roof (the third largest in Washington, D.C.). Students will continue working on these two WWF-FSC campaigns for the duration of the semester and will present the final projects in December 2014. Stay tuned for the final implementation projects!

 

Without Mosquitoes, there is no Dengue: UM students use HvM to teach Panama youth about vector-borne diseases

[youtube width=”600″ height=”365″ video_id=”1UwFxNza8ac”]

During Summer 2014 in the semi-autonomous Panamanian community known as Kuna Yala, a team of University of Miami Public Health and Latin American Studies students participated in an educational intervention to raise awareness about mosquito avoidance and disease prevention among Kuna Yala’s 10-12 year old schoolchildren. They were successful in engaging the children in pertinent discussions about this topic through the use of a simple card game developed by Clay Ewing and myself called “Humans vs. Mosquitoes.” The student team adapted it to fit the cultural context of the remote village in Panama and introduced the game in a formal classroom setting, supplementing it with an educational talk and community-wide garbage cleanup.

The game has one goal for each team: the humans try to eliminate all the mosquitoes’ eggs from the breeding grounds while the mosquitoes try to deplete the humans’ blood supply. Children were quick to learn the game, and very eager to continue playing and switch teams after each round. Implementing a formal pre and post evaluation proved difficult, but the team left after seven days with very valuable knowledge about this topic. First, the game was popular among the children, which signifies its potential to be adapted to almost any environment. Second, by opening this channel of communication through gameplay, the team discovered that many of the children had difficulty defining dengue and distinguishing it from the mosquito itself or from other vector-borne diseases. Community health workers and health professionals must keep this in mind when developing awareness raising or educational campaigns. The Panama youth experienced situated learning by playing the game, and it facilitated trust and openness between all participants, which encouraged an ongoing discussion about an important health education topic identified by the community.  The game can be used alongside other educational tools like talks and community engagement activities to reconcile the misconceptions about the life cycle of a mosquito and the diseases it may carry.

 

Thanks to Dr. Sherri Porcelain and Professor Ali Habashi for mentoring and creating such a unique student experience

 Video credit: Hannah Artman, Charles Chen, Stephanie Echeverria, Orchadia McLean, and Amanda Randall – University of Miami

Blog content credit: Hannah Artman