On July 26, University of Central Florida was awarded a $434,800 National Institutes of Health grant to develop a game to promote abstinence among Latina middle school students, reports the Orlando Business Journal.
The above picture shows what looks to be the game in alpha. It could even be the demo used to attain the funds. The actual game development will continue over the next two years. The finished product has not yet been shown, because the game hasn't been developed!
The game will be designed to help young Latina students respond to peer pressure. UCF Today describes how it will work: "The schoolgirls will interact with realistic computer-generated characters that speak and respond to them in real-life scenarios. To make the game as realistic as possible, the avatars are controlled by the actions of a skilled 'interactor' using motion-capture technology. The interactor remains hidden, often in a remote location, during game play."
Anne Norris, a UCF nursing professor, and Charles Hughes, a UCF computer science professor, will helm the project. The team will collect data from focus groups of Latina students, and the beta will be play tested on Latina students, tracking their progress.
According to Norris, "Our ultimate goal is to reduce pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease among the young Latina population." Low-income Latinas, UCF Today points out, have higher rates of teen birth and HIV than whites.
The game is designed to help the young women respond to questions like why she doesn't have a boyfriend or why she isn't having sex.
The development of this game costs far more than trying to scare young women with STD horror stories. But since tax players are already picking up astronomical, and unpayable teenage hospital bills for pre-term infants, this could be better in the long term.
That is, if it works.
And if it does, the Orlando Business Journal reports that Norris plans to develop a game for boys and other ethnic groups as well.