Bringing serious games to public health

Continued education

Life long learning has become a necessity for every specialist. Continuous professional development is offered in much higher volumes than ever before, driven by stricter criteria for renewed licensing. Employees are often expected to engage in continuous development in their own time.

In addition, professional practice has become much more demanding; high work loads and especially continuous (24/7) reminders for professional tasks, via online devices. "Free time" and "working time" are becoming more entwined.
E-learning has also grown enormously this provides employees more influence on the timing of their educational activities. Sadly, many E-learning courses remain stuck at the level of 'talking slideshows'. Loss of motivation is one of the big E-learning problems. A large proportion of the participants that start E-learning, quits and does not finish.


Serious Games can play a role to increase intrinsic motivation of participants and to maintain this motivation until the goal has been reached. Serious Games can support educational goals, from awareness raising and transferring new knowledge to training of new complex skills and the shaping of attitudes and judgement.  Serious games use an approach that can educate and train while entertaining users and there are several studies that demonstrate that users who practiced a serious game training have better results than users experiencing traditional learning processes (1).


Several games of crisis were developed by universities in which contamination is a key theme. “Hazmat: Hotzone,” (from Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University in collaboration with the New York Fire Department), is a multiplayer networked simulation for modeling hazardous materials emergencies. In “Hotzone,” the crises that emerge in game play can be tweaked by the interventions of an instructor using a “Wizard of Oz” interface to insert secondary events and unexpected actions in the main story about hazardous materials in a public place, such as a subway station. “Hazmat: Hotzone” allows instructors to evaluate team interactions.
Similarly, Public Health Games at the Center for the Advancement of Distance Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago has developed a multi-user anthrax outbreak simulation, “Zero Hour,” which can be run in the field on laptops or cellular telephones. (2)


These are few examples of serious games applied to specific public health educational objectives. Yet compared to other areas of training (defense, health care, toxicology, fire fighting), public health is still an area to be discovered by serious game developers....



  1. Francesco Ricciardi and Lucio Tommaso De Paolis. "A Comprehensive Review of Serious Games in Health Professions." International Journal of Computer Games Technology. Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 787968
  2. Losh, E. "Walls, Doors, Condoms, and Duct Tape: Serious Games about National Security and Public Health." Discourse 29.1 (2007): 101-119. Project MUSE. Web. 20 Jun. 2016.
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