Gaming for the Disadvantaged: A Journey Through the Human Body

Lieutenant Tuck Pendleton, played heroically by Dennis Quaid in Joe Dante’s 1987 sci-fi blockbuster “Innerspace”, pilots a miniaturised team in an unforgettable adventure inside a human body. Two decades later, Jan Gejel of the Aarhus Social and Health Care College presents at OEB the BODYexplorer, a new web-based learning game for disadvantaged citizens that takes its players inside a human body to see for themselves the damage done by drug abuse, fast food, idleness and alcohol.


Jan Gejel says BODYexplorer will be the first learning game in Denmark to target disadvantaged citizens. During two years of development his team analysed the gaming market in Europe and discovered there was not a single game offered for lifelong learning by the disadvantaged, the unemployed, the migrants or the young and the ‘bewildered’ of our world.


The plan now is that BODYexplorer, a web-based game environment, will be used in Danish Social and Health Care Colleges, in basic health education, upper primary schools and in adult education by the end of 2011.


It aims to get non-academic young learners interested in the prevention of lifestyle diseases caused by alcohol, drug abuse, fast food and serious lack of physical exercise.


“Learners will be very motivated because they can directly experience the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle on the human body,” says Jan Gejel.


Blending a Web-Based Game with Real Life Activities


Details are still being developed. One option is to present the game as a web series, running for three or four months and adding new plot elements once a week. Alternatively, a more classic concept offering permanent access to the full game might be provided.


“We are very interested in a concept that involves real time and requires real life activities to progress in the game,” Jan Gejel says. “One of the most promising elements is that the game will be embedded in a collaborative web platform through which the learners can play the game as well as discuss its challenges and different solutions.”


Some of these features were used in the Climate Mystery game and in other recent learning games. A game developer in the first generation of learning games is a key partner in the BODYexplorer project.


Another important perspective for the developers of BODYexplorer is to encourage the education sector to give the learners the opportunity to produce, organise and present knowledge in the form of games themselves. Therefore the BODYexplorer project will focus on learners’ access to uncomplicated game tool software, which might be integrated in the collaborative web environment of BODYexplorer.


Linking Commercial Game Producers and the Education Sector


The BODYexplorer project is linked to the promotion of learning games and to a Danish campaign running in 2010 and 2011 called nCOUNTr which aims at bringing together commercial game producers and the education sector.


BODYexplorer will, in its first versions, be financed, produced, implemented and tested in Denmark. But the developing team intends to promote it through the European Lifelong Learning Programme. The final budget of the full game is expected to be around 1 million euro.




The Climate Mystery Game:


The BODYexplorer project has been inspired by the global “Computer Clubhouse Network”, initiated by the MIT Media Lab in Boston:


Jan Gejel will present BODYexplorer – Exploiting Computer Gaming and Animation for Interactive Learning for Disadvantaged Learners as part of the session Advanced Technologies and E-Learning for Quality of Life in a Disadvantaged World on Thursday, December 2nd, from 11:45 – 13:00.

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