Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fatworld - ah, the irony...

I just played a game called "Fatworld." This persuasive game introduces the intersection between socioeconomic factors, health and nutrition to players. You create a character, choosing its age, hair color, predisposition to disease (heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes), class status, and body type. Then you create a "fat world." In this world, you age, exercise (or not), create meal plans (healthy or otherwise), and your character's life runs according to the nutrition/health you choose. You can influence public health policies, go grocery shopping and make other life decisions. Neat idea, right? The idea is for you to learn about how these decisions affect your life (in real life) - and you try to get your character to live as long as possible. I made my character "represent" me; I chose the diseases that have occurred in my family, my social class, my body type... and I chose to grow green hair. :) And then I ran around my world, followed the directions, visited the cemetery the suburbs, the projects, the estates and the city. And while I ran around this world, "learning" about how health, class, exercise and nutritional decisions intersect, I was actually sitting in front of a computer, sipping my iced latte and thinking about how it was amusing that I was playing a computer game to learn about these issues. Ah, the irony of sitting in front of a computer, learning about the importance of exercise...
On the Fatworld general site, one can download and play the game as well as link to sites that discuss and inform the topics related to the game. There were links to nutritional information and exercise regimes - all "legitimate" sites, such as Harvard's public health site on nutrition. I learned more through these links than the game, but perhaps that's because, after designing my character, I sort of lost interest in the game. I still think that these games have some merit, especially for teaching kids, in an interactive way, about disease and nutrition, but only if they realize the application of this new knowledge to their real lives, only if they realize Life isn't just a game.

1 comment:

Libby said...

I too have to laugh at the irony of sitting and playing a video game about healthy eating, while you are sitting in front of the screen. I think if video games were really wanting to have a social impact, especially in the health industry, perhaps they shouldn't allow participants to play for hours on end. Just a thought but allowing someone to play fatworld for hours, does not really do much to change the public health obesity crisis.