Game Changer Chicago (GCC), a signature program of the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3), recently launched the GCC Design Lab where teams of graduate, undergraduate and high school students, staff and faculty explore how fiction can impact reality. The new design lab engages youth in designing and playing narrative and technology based interventions relating to sexual and reproductive health, health disparities, and urban problems with the goal of helping youth build new skills and reduce risk behaviors.
The GCC Design Lab, located at the Charles Stewart Mott Building on UChicago’s campus, was started by Melissa Gilliam, MD, MPH, Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Pediatrics, Chief of the Section of Family Planning & Contraceptive Research, Director of Ci3, and Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion in the BSD, and Patrick Jagoda, Assistant Professor of English.
"We'd like the Design Lab to become a place where faculty and students can come in and initiate projects or join existing teams,” says Jagoda. "I'd like to keep experimenting with large-scale and trans-disciplinary collaborations that draw on, entangle, and exceed the humanities, arts and sciences as they tackle complex problems."
The GCC team launched their latest and most ambitious game, The Source, this summer. One hundred and forty Chicago Public School students participated in the five-week alternate reality game which focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) learning through a narrative that captured youths’ experiences on the South Side. It touched on both direct and indirect factors that contribute to the social and personal development of youth. With support from the National Science Foundation, the team will work over the next year to assess the post-game impact of game-based intervention on learning, with particular emphasis on health learning, using data from The Source.
GCC is already working on their next game, A Day in the Life, with funding from the Compton Foundation. This video game will focus on the daily decision-making challenges of high school students through a branching narrative with topics ranging from sexual and reproductive health to bullying.
Engaging youth in major steps of the design process distinguishes the Design Lab’s approach from traditional game-based intervention. The GCC team understands the value of consulting the very people with whom they are making an intervention— from determining if a story line is compelling, to connecting the game style to youth’s actual experiences.
"We don't want to treat participants as subjects and put them under the microscope. We aim to create interventions with the community through consultations, co-design and joint play tests. We hope to benefit youth during the study and prior to the evaluation," says Jagoda.
Gilliam and Jagoda’s work is funded by: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; The Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society; The DeMartini Family Foundation; The Hive Learning Network; The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy; Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture; and the Office of the Vice President for Research and for National Laboratories.
By Holly Zaharchuk, for Arete.