CDC Health Game Jam 2013

CDC Health Game Jam 2013

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested the concept of using a 48-hour game-development challenge (game jam) as an effective means to build inexpensive demos of health-related games and to improve awareness of and interest in public health careers among those with 21st century tech skills. The event, the largest game jam of any type ever held in the US and the first game jam sponsored by the US Government, demonstrated that game jams can effectively and efficiently be used to build inexpensive demos of health-related games and improve awareness of and interest in public health careers.


CDC Health Game Jam 2013: Watch the 5 minute pitch.

Project Summary
According to the Entertainment Software Association, games are played by 58% of Americans—by both genders and by a wide age range. Positive health outcomes from the use of computer games are documented. Game Jams are a proven way to bring game developers together to address a specific theme in a competitive, yet collaborative atmosphere, constrained by both a deadline and a confined location (i.e., single venue and 48-hour duration).

CDC’s Health Game Jam 2013 was a pilot event designed to merge disease prevention and health care subjects with this game development approach. It was an opportunity for game developers (designers, artists, and programmers) to work directly with CDC subject matter experts during a 48-hour long period to develop games that address CDC’s and HHS’s public health priorities.

The winning team spent five days at CDC learning more about public health, the federal government, and worked directly with CDC subject matter experts to ensure the accuracy of the game they developed. While this opportunity was very well received by the members of the winning team, it may be worth making the opportunity to work directly with CDC staff available to any game jam participants.

For this event, the CDC partnered with the RWJF-funded Games for Health Project, the Georgia Game Developers Association, and Southern Polytechnic State University, and the CDC Foundation. The project team was also able to leverage the $10,000 in HHS funding to obtain an additional $19,000 in matching funds and in-kind donations. Seventeen CDC Subject Matter Experts participated during the Game Jam and 27 during the internship.

The event exceeded forecasts, while boosting interest in public health among contestants:

  • Game Jam Participants: 300
  • Game Demos Developed: 29
  • Impact on Participant Interest in Public Health Careers: Pre-event survey found 12% participants were interested in public health; Post-event survey found an increase to 50% of participants being interested in public health.

The event demonstrated that game jams can effectively and efficiently be used to build inexpensive demos of health-related games and to improve awareness of and interest in public health careers. Future plans include hosting a similar event in 2014 that builds on the lessons learned during the 2013 event, but also with a larger emphasis on evaluating the quality of games developed and the game’s effect on behavioral outcomes.

 

Team Members
Dan Baden (Project Lead), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Peter Jenkins, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Leigh Willis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Tom Savel, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Ben Sawyer, RWJF’s Games for Health Project
Tony Tseng, Savannah College of Art and Design, Atlanta
Andrew Greenberg, Georgia Game Developers Association

Project Lead’s Approving Supervisor:
Kristin Brusuelas, Senior Liaison Officer, Office of State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Public Health Professionals, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

Additional Information

 

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