The NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), with help from WisdomTools and the New England Research Institutes, has created a role playing video game (RPG) called The Paper Kingdom. The game was developed to help ease the fears of kids and their parents and to help them learn more about clinical trials before making a decision about whether to participate in one. You can download the game for Windows or Mac computers from the Children and Clinical Studies section of the NHLBI’s website.
The game starts out like a picture book; a few slides set the scene. You are sent to remind your brother to take his medicine, but you find that he’s not in his room. Suddenly, you are transported into a book titled, The Paper Kingdom, that you find laying on your brother’s floor. His fears about joining a clinical trial have come to life within the book. You must rescue him from them by educating him about clinical trials.
Once inside the book, you are transported into an impressively large and detailed virtual world, where your mission is to combat myths about clinical trials. You outfit yourself with weapons and armor, and you go on missions throughout the Paper Kingdom, defeating dragons and rescuing the citizens of the kingdom. With each dragon you defeat, a fear-based myth about clinical trials is revealed. Once you have rescued all 15 citizens you can venture to the final level to rescue your brother.
While the game is “aimed at kids ages 8-14 and helps dispel myths and misconceptions about medical clinical trials,” (source) the lessons learned throughout the game can be useful regardless of age.
We have written about gamification in the past on the Lilly COI Blog. The Paper Kingdom is a game first and an educational piece second, but that doesn’t detract from the amount of knowledge a person can gain from playing the game. When developers put fun first and then weave educational content throughout, chances are, they’ll do a much better job of engaging their intended audiences.