Researchers at Yale University are testing whether a humorous card game can help young, black women reduce their chances of contracting HIV and AIDS—part of a new but growing trend examining whether games can spur health behavior changes. Played among three to five people, “One Night Stan” has players draw cards to establish sexual scenarios and then prompts players to discuss how they would react in those settings. The game, developed by play2PREVENT, a gaming lab within the Yale School of Medicine, is still a prototype, but designers are hoping to launch a video game version eventually and bring it to a broader audience. “It’s really about evaluating sexual situations and encounters,” said Kimberly Hieftje, a developer of the game who is an associate research scientist at Yale School of Medicine and deputy director of the play2PREVENT Lab. A growing number of developers, in Connecticut and nationally, are testing whether card, video, online and mobile games are effective tools for getting people to make healthier choices.
Women’s health is the next frontier for a team of medical researchers at Yale who believe video games can be powerful tools in the fight against HIV and other serious diseases. For the last several years, Yale’s Play2Prevent lab has been a hub of collaboration between doctors and computer programmers testing the capacity of games to educate users and, perhaps, even change risky behavior. Their work is part of a fast-growing movement in public health to better understand how virtual gaming environments can improve players’ lives in the real world. The lab’s latest project aims to reduce HIV infections among young African American women. Using a grant from the Women’s Health Research at Yale Pilot Program, the team will spend this year working with groups of black teens and 20-somethings to design a game that’s relevant, entertaining and, hopefully, a model for future public health projects. “This is a really new field,” said Kimberly Hieftje, who holds a PhD in health behavior and is a member of the Play2Prevent team.