Tuesday, May 20, 2008

speaking out about shooting up: a social impact game

My final project will deal with whether harm reduction, because it does not require individuals to either reduce their use of illicit drugs or to abstain from these substances, can be ethically justified. However, in order to make this topic appropriately into game form, I would approach the concept from a social justice lens.

The game would force players into the life of a drug addict, thus revealing how harm reduction alone is inadequate to address the root causes of inequalities in health and access to health care for such a population. Players would be able to choose between two choices in order to advance in the game. Each choice would involve certain implications that can negatively impact the player’s health and, eventually, life. Players would realize how limited their options are regarding one’s ability to survive in such a situation. For example, at the beginning of the game, one would state their gender, age, and ethnicity. In accordance with current HIV and AIDS statistics in the United States, one would be identified as either an HIV positive or negative intravenous drug user. A set of possible actions that could be taken would appear and the player would try to navigate life on the streets as an IDU. One would experience the real life difficulties of trying to balance one’s addiction with one’s needs for survival. Decisions concerning all aspects of life would be addressed: whether to work (if this is even a possibility depending on one’s health status and level of addiction), whether one can have a family (dependant on one’s financial situation as well as health status), whether one would/could receive treatment and where this treatment would be available, and one would also be able to interact with the general public, health care providers, law enforcement, one’s family, and other IDU’s. One’s survival is highly dependent on the choices one makes as well as on the barriers that are firmly placed in our society.

I hope that this game would make it clear that IDU’s are individuals who have fewer resources available to deal with actual and potential health needs that can mean life or death. Likewise, the game would allow users to interact with various harm reduction programs. I hope this would allow others to see the immense potential for such programs and simultaneously allow users to identify how the current system of abstinence significantly affects every aspect of an IDU’s life and potential for healing. Thus, within a social justice framework, it is possible to address the harms of current drug policy not as a matter of individual choice but as a matter of health and well-being.

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