Measuring the Social Impact of Games for Health and Policy Reform

Lien Tran, Katharina Lang, Nick Carcioppolo, Clay Ewing and David Beyea


As games continue to grow as a medium for social change and as we design more games with a desired social impact, it is important that we conduct sound research that tests our hypotheses and can turn assumptions into factual understanding. This talk will present preliminary findings from two game assessment studies conducted at the University of Miami. One study evaluates how the presentation mode of a role-taking game (Cops and Rubbers) versus a written report influences an individualís reaction and willingness to advocate against the condoms-as-evidence policy. The second study assesses the effectiveness of a tabletop game (Vanity) to influence attitudes, knowledge, and intentions regarding tanning behavior and skin cancer prevention.

Much game studies research focuses on player engagement, narrative, and violence in commercial video games or learning outcomes of education games. Little formal research addresses the impact games have on peopleís perceptions of or prosocial behavior towards real-world issues. As a result, humanitarian organizations and their partners may be hesitant to use games as advocacy tools. This is in spite of the fact that games provide unique experiential learning opportunities whereby players take on someone elseís perspective via role-taking (when an individual temporarily pretends that he or she is another person in order to gain insight into that personís thoughts, attitudes, intentions, and behaviors in a given situation) as well as internalize in-game cause and effect to draw independent conclusions leading to a call to action in real life (Gee, 2008; Peng, Lee, & Heeter, 2010).