PlayForward: Elm City Stories

PlayForward serves as the foundation for the play2PREVENT Lab and is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The project’s goal is to develop and evaluate an interactive videogame designed to provide at-risk young teens the opportunity to acquire and practice skills for risk reduction and HIV prevention. This videogame incorporates evidence-based concepts from prominent behavior change theories, including self-efficacy, social norms, message framing, and delay discounting.

We completed production of PlayForward in early December 2012 and began a randomized clinical trial to test its effectiveness in February 2013.  PlayForward is an interactive world in which the player, using an Avatar (virtual character) they have created, “travels” through life, facing challenges and making decisions that bring different risks and benefits. Players have the ability to see how their choices affect their lives and subsequently are able to move back in time to see how different actions might have led to different outcomes. By negotiating challenges in a highly-repetitive and meaningful way, players learn skills that translate to real life, equipping them to avoid situations that increase their risk for HIV and other negative health outcomes. Data generated from the game allows us to track the players’ actions. Using these data, we can evaluate in real time how our players are acquiring skills to help them make better choices.