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

 

 

Training Shelter Staff at His House

In August 2014, the University of Miami published an article on my Toma el Paso game, including some coverage on a recently training I did with shelter staff at His House in Miami Gardens.

Lien Tran shows counselors how to play the board game she created for the young, unaccompanied, and undocumented immigrants who are streaming into the United States. Photo: Han Chang

The full article can be found here:
http://everitas.univmiami.net/2014/08/21/make-a-move-professors-board-game-helps-young-immigrants-plot-their-futures/

Unaccompanied immigrant minors in Miami making moves with Toma El Paso game

Back in Spring 2012, I started working on Make a Move, a game for unaccompanied immigrant minors (UIMs), youth who find themselves in the U.S. without proper documentation of legal status. I was working with a former teacher turned immigration lawyer to bridge the information gap faced by these youth due to their undocumented status. One of the first topics we identified as important for UIMs to understand was the release from detention/shelter process. At about the same time The New School started its social innovation fund called the New Challenge, which was the perfect opportunity to seek seed funding to produce and distribute Make a Move.

In the final few weeks of that spring semester a few notable things happened: I finished designing the game, which was also my culminating thesis project for my Parsons MFAD+T degree. My immigration games project (then named AmigoLegal Games) became the inaugural New Challenge grand grant winner. I was offered a full-time teaching position at the University of Miami in Florida. I (finally) graduated from The New School. In that order. When I first started this project and applied to the New Challenge, I had planned to continue working on it post-graduation from New York. Then my life took a turn and I was headed to Miami, which happens to be another haven for UIMs with its own immigration law concerns.

In my last two months in New York, a place I’d called home for 5 years, I had a lot of transitioning to do. I moved out of my awesome Brooklyn apartment, the one I thought I would live in for many more years. I went from being a graduate student to a professor. I got engaged. I was about to start a whole new life in Miami. Before I left, I committed to continuing working remotely on the immigration games project with my lawyer partner and the juvenile facilities in New York. Well, things didn’t quite work out as planned with my project partner, and I was left to re-establish the project in Miami.

It wasn’t easy, but after about a year of making connections and meeting with different groups, I finally found a solid partnership within the University of Miami family. Etiony Aldarondo from UM’s School of Education has been working with UIMs for years. He’s the faculty advisor for an amazing initiative called ICAN (Immigrant Children’s Affirmative Network), which is part of a larger entity called ICLASP (Immigrant Children’s Legal And Service Partnership). ICAN is a group of dedicated volunteers who work with the UIMs at a shelter in Miami Gardens called His House. I was fortunate to meet Etiony in August 2013, just as ICAN was reworking their UIM curriculum to switch from shorter weekly sessions to an extended 2-days-per month schedule.

Again it wasn’t easy, but I’m so appreciative to have made inroads here in Miami where I can be more involved and have more stakeholders interested in spreading the use of games to address the immigration information gap. Since that first meeting with Etiony in August, we finalized the Spanish translation for the game including its name and had immigration experts from Americans from Immigrant Justice (AIJ) play and confirm its content. Toma El Paso (Make a Move in Spanish) has been part of ICAN’s monthly curriculum since April 2014. In June, we met with the His House staff in charge of the UIMs at their shelter location, and they are very excited about using the game beyond just ICAN. We’ve now planned a game training in August 2014 with the shelter staff so that UIMs can learn and play the game throughout their stay at His House. It seems like it’s been a slow two years, but I’m super excited about the progress we’ve made in the last few months and the steps we are taking to grow. One big change to note is that I’ve renamed this game-based initiative to Amiguía Americana to convey our efforts to provide resources designed for UIMs that serve as friendly guides to acclimating to life in the U.S. We are also trying to expand the reach and use of our resources to include immigrant youth who may have legal status to live in the U.S. Stay tuned!

To learn more about the original Gaming the (Immigration) System project, please visit: http://lienbtran.com/games/toma-el-paso

 

Special thanks to The New School’s New Challenge for seed funding to make this project a reality, my Parsons MFA+DT game design ‘family’ including faculty and students at Institute of Play who helped test the game in its very early stages, Jessica Wendorf (for her instrumental translation help), Lauren Gutman (ICAN program coordinator and Amiguía Americana research assistant), ICAN volunteers, Etiony Aldarondo (Director of Dunspaugh-Dalton Community and Educational Well-Being Research Center at University of Miami), Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ), and the staff His House in Miami Gardens, Florida.

 

SIGGRAPH DAC Aesthetics of Gameplay exhibit of indie games available online

In early 2014, the ACM SIGGRAPH Digital Arts Community (DAC) launched the Aesthetics of Gameplay online exhibition. Ian Bogost captures what this exhibition aims to showcase in his article entitled “Persuasive Games: From Aberrance to Aesthetics”: “But when one finds a game that does manage to deliver a detectable aesthetic — a set of creative principles and effects that make it the sort of game it is — that alone is a triumph.”

I was invited by Greg Garvey from Quinnipiac University (and curator of this exhibit) to be one of the 15 game nominators to identify indie games that fit Bogost’s description. Each nominator was asked to list up to 15 game titles for inclusion in this collection of recent digital games from independent developers that are uniquely creative in putting together striking and distinctive aesthetics with engaging gameplay.

Please visit the exhibit online and experience the breadth of game aesthetics demonstrated with this impressive list of indie games. In the words of curator Greg Garvey, we hope this exhibition “poses questions about the nature of art, games, and play. So download, get in some serious play, and enjoy total engagement!” To view the SIGGRAPH DAC Aesthetics as Gameplay exhibit, please visit: http://gameartshow.siggraph.org/gas/acknowledgements/

Exhibit game nominators included: Elena Bertozzi, Clayton Ewing, Lindsay Grace, Jacquelyn Ford Morie, Eric Nersesian, Casey O’Donnell, Andrew Phelps, Charles Pratt, Samuel Roberts, Kathleen Ruiz, Dave Tomczyk, Lien Tran, Michael Wagner, Jose Zagal, and Eric Zimmerman

 

 

Cops & Rubbers video is now live!

[vimeo width=”600″ height=”365″ video_id=”93179928″]

 Have you played Cops & Rubbers?

Watch this video to learn more about my Cops & Rubbers game project with Open Society Foundations’ Public Health and Rights Project, which is based on OSF’s Criminalizing Condoms report.

For more on Cops & Rubbers:

 

Thanks to Ed Talavera, professor from University of Miami’s Cinema program, for putting together this fabulous Cops & Rubbers video.

Invoking the Pause selects “Games for the Caribbean Climate” as 2014 Grant Partner

I’m pleased to announce that my proposal for “Games for a Caribbean Climate” – joint with Red Cross Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Reference Center (CADRIM) and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre – is a 2014 Invoking the Pause (ITP) Grant Partner!

Thanks to Invoking the Pause, we will be conducting a 2-day workshop in Barbados in June 2014 to explore communication of climate risk using game systems. We will use some of our existing climate risk games as an introduction to using interactive tools to discuss climate risk. Some of these games will then be adapted to be specifically relevant to the Caribbean region. The games will also serve as a catalyst for dialogue regarding climate change adaptation needs and concerns in the Caribbean and will inform new ideas for collaboration and innovation to strengthen community resilience. Feedback captured via discussions and evaluations from the workshop will further determine the scope of methodology designed for the adapted game(s).

The workshop will be attended by personnel from partner organizations such as the National Disaster Office, Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Community Disaster Response Teams (CDRTs) , United Nations, University of the West Indies and the Barbados Red Cross.

I’m looking forward to organizing the workshop with Reynette Royer of CADRIM and taking a pause in beautiful Barbados!

 

From the Invoking the Pause blog:

[quote]Invoking the Pause is thrilled to announce our Grant Partners for the 2014 grant cycle. We received a record number of applications this year, and definitely had our work cut out for us deciding how to allocate funds among a highly qualified pool of applicants. After a lively discussion and some tough decisions, our Advisory Committee selected five partners to receive Invoking the Pause grants:

•    A New Story to Heal the Earth: Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment
•    Breaking Up with Fossil Fuels: As You Sow
•    Raising Our Voices: Convening for Key Environmental Messengers: Environmental Entrepreneurs
•    An Investigation of Fracking in Calfornia: Mark Hertsgaard and Holly Kernan
•    Game for the Caribbean Climate: University of Miami

[/quote]

 

This grant kicks off the beginning of a new and hopefully extensive partnership between the University of Miami and the Red Cross Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Reference Center! Thank you to Invoking the Pause and the MK Gratitude Fund of RSF Social Finance for selecting and funding this workshop.

Make a Move (“Toma El Paso”) is officially available on The Game Crafter

For those who have been following my Gaming the Immigration System project and the status of Make a Move (Toma El Paso in Spanish), I’m happy to announce that the game has been translated into Spanish and is now available for purchase! I’ve been working with local immigration experts here in Miami (thank you Americans for Immigrant Justice and University of Miami’s ICAN network) to confirm the content and Spanish language translation.

Since the majority of undocumented unaccompanied immigrant minors (UUIMs) are Spanish speaking, I’ve published the full version of the game in Spanish with an English expansion (you can use the English chance cards and release mats with children who prefer communicating in English). If you will only be playing with Spanish speakers, please order the Toma El Paso version. If you will be playing with both Spanish and English players, then also add the English expansion to your order.

Ordering the game:

For more information on the project, visit: http://lienbtran.com/games/gaming-the-system/

 

 

 

UM Interactive Media MFA Among Princeton Review’s Top Graduate Game Design Programs

The School of Communications Interactive Media Master of Fine Arts program has earned a No. 24 ranking on The Princeton Review’s 2014 list of the best graduate schools to study video game design. The Princeton Review chose the schools based on a survey it conducted in Fall 2013 of 150 programs at institutions offering video game design coursework or degrees in the United States, Canada, and some countries abroad.

It’s an honor to have our Interactive Media program on this list and in such great company (including my alma mater Parsons) in our first year. We look forward to supporting the many amazing game projects that will come out of our Interactive Media program!

If you’re a student interested in studying with us, please check out: interactive.miami.edu

Check out the original article on the School of Communication website.

 

 

Vanity 2.0 now available

In Fall 2013 Clay Ewing and I went back and did some tweaking to the original Vanity game. Some of the changes were to make the gameplay more user friendly, like eliminating the moles all together and instead using stackers that move along a numbered column to track your fitness, tan, style, and health risk. Other changes were to increase meaningful choice – like whether to take an acting role that earned you Vanity Points but also potentially reduced your attribute levels.

Vanity 2.0 has an improved player experience and is now available for purchase from The Game Crafter: https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/vanity2

More photos to come!

 

 

Extreme Candy wins Best Game at Global Game Jam!

I teamed up with Clay Ewing (@claytical), Joel Acosta (@LoseTV), and Brian Deltoro in this year’s Global Game Jam from January 24-26. FIU’s Game Developers Guild kindly hosted us and got sponsors to provide food and drinks to fuel all of us through the 48-hour game jam!

Our game Extreme Candy Photo Bomb Scavenger Memory Saga (title is inspired by King’s recent act of trademarking the use of words like candy and saga in games) pits you against an evil witch with a sweet snaggletooth. Take a photo to concoct a spell for magical peppermints that will claim the candy as yours!

Extreme Candy Photo Bomb Scavenger Memory Saga won both Best Overall Game and Best Candy Game (thanks to @Machinezilla for sponsoring the Candy Jam prize). It was a great collaborative experience, and we are pretty happy with what we came up with in a weekend including introducing a new mechanic of taking photos to dictate the color of your candy ammo in our match-3 game.

We tried to release Extreme Candy… on iOS shortly after the jam, but it was rejected by the App Store because of the name (of course). We’re still working on getting a final version up. For now, we’ve posted a OSX version for your Mac computers on the Candy Jam site: http://claytical.itch.io/extreme-candy-photo-bomb-scavenger-memory-saga

Game Design: Clay Ewing, Lien Tran & Joel Acosta
Code: Clay Ewing
Graphics: Lien Tran
Illustrations: Joel Acosta
Audio: Joel Acosta & Brian Deltoro

 

 

 

Put Yourself in a Sex Worker’s Shoes – and there might just be a condom in it

Now everyone can put themselves in the shoes of a sex worker – just don’t get caught with a condom in your shoe like Naomi here. Cops and Rubbers is now available for free PDF download or you can purchase an official printed version from the Open Society Foundations (OSF)’s website! Check out the OSF Cops and Rubbers page: http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/publications/cops-rubbers

Also this week Paul VanDeCarr, managing director and co-founder of Working Narratives, wrote a nice article for the Communications Network website on Cops & Rubbers. Paul interviewed Brett Davidson and Rachel Thomas from OSF and myself so the article shares perspectives of the design process from the subject matter experts/advocates and game designer. Enjoy!
http://www.comnetwork.org/2013/10/put-yourself-in-a-sex-workers-shoes/

Naomi tried to hide her condom in her shoe hoping to not get caught in possession of condoms. Unfortunately, tonight the police are searching people’s purses/wallets and shoes for condoms, and Naomi is caught. She’s at risk of getting arrested …. or worse.

Creating Crowdsourcing Mobile App to Monitor Water Quality in Ghana

Article sourced from UM Interactive website (September 2013)

With the global population booming and water-borne diseases on the rise, developing nations are faced with the serious challenge of providing clean water to their citizens. Of particular concern are many cities in Sub-Saharan Africa, which are expected to fall short of Millennium Development Goals for ensuring adequate and potable resources for the entire community. For example, recent studies in Accra, Ghana, have shown that existing water rationing programs are highly variable not only across geographical regions but also income levels. In fact, this is one of the few cities in the world where access to piped water has actually decreased in recent decades due to lagging public infrastructure and production limitations.

In the past, Ghana Water Company Ltd. (GWCL) carried out residential surveys to assess water service at the neighborhood level; the results were alarming. However, follow-up studies and broader research were not feasible due to the cost and time required to do the surveys. Ghana is in desperate need of a cheap, quick alternative that will allow officials to monitor water quality throughout the region without wasting excess resources or time.

In late July 2013, Interactive Media professors Lien Tran and Clay Ewing traveled to Accra to apply the power of crowdsourcing to Ghana’s municipal water challenge. Working in collaboration with Justin Stoler, also from the University of Miami, as well as GWCL officials, they created a new, mobile-based tool to track residential water service. The system, Improving Quality of Urban Water Service by Engaging SMS Technology or IQUEST for short, harnesses the power of short message service (SMS) on users’ cell phones. By collecting data from residents, GWCL management is able to monitor water quality trends across the region.

The road to a reliable SMS-based water quality network is not without challenge; socio-cultural factors, including language barriers, varying literacy rates and expensive texting fees, have limited IQUEST’s test data collection so far. Nevertheless, Lien and Clay eagerly await the results of the pilot study in addition to the responses from local GWCL officials. With time and perseverance, they hope to implement IQUEST throughout the Accra region to help improve water access, managerial awareness and, ultimately, quality of life.

Lien and Clay would like to thank the School of Communication for providing the funding for this project.

For more information visit http://lienbtran.com/design/iquest/.

Accra, Ghana

Ghana Urban Water Limited

IQUEST Collaborators

IQUEST Mobile App

IQUEST Mobile App Results

IQUEST Mobile App Results