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Presentation describing Fitter Critters, a nutrition education game intended to transform children's attitudes toward nutrition.

Presentation describing Fitter Critters, a nutrition education game intended to transform children's attitudes toward nutrition.

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  • So I'm going to be introducing Fitter Critters, which is a nutrition education game designed to teach schoolchildren better eating habits while providing them with the skills they need to make better choices about their own diets. Now it's well established that one of the great, cheap ways to curry favor with an unfamiliar audience is to show them cute pictures of your baby.  ANd I'm certainly not above that.
  • Right now it's relatively easy for me to make sure that she's eating the right things, but I know that's not always going to be the case.   I also know that video games are going to be a big part of her future.   It's my ambition to create games that will help me out as a parent,     That 's the reason why I created a nutrition education game, which I think is the best kind way to drive design.
  • I'd like to open with a very complex question: What causes childhood obesity? And go immediately to an overly simplistic answer...
  • This does! High-calorie, high-fat, low-nutrition food.   For too long, this has been kind of the normal diet for kids at home and at school.
  • The good news is that kids are starting to get access to healthier options at school. There's the healthy, hunger-free kids act of 2010, which authorized federal funds for school lunch program`.   Twelve states developed policies to improve access to healthy foods and beverages in a variety of school venues All of this is great, but. the fact is
  • access alone isn't enough. - Read - Read - Read   All of that's really doable, it just takes time and effort to impart that knowledge. But here's the real kicker: they also need to:   - Learn to value healthier food choices. This one's really tough.  Why?
  • It is very easy for a clown to sell cheeseburgers to children.  More than anything, the problem is cultural.  It's about how children learn to value food.  And if we grow up that way, then our propensity toward unhealthy foods becomes bound up in who we are as Americans.  And that is one tough nut to crack. I believe that the unique attributes of video games coupled with their cultural legitimacy makes them a powerful tool to counteract the cultural forces that instill negative attitudes toward eating in children.
  • This really cuts to the heart of the problem, because it's taking about the need to persuade.
  • Last year, Let's Move in coordination with the USDA launched the Apps for Healthy Kids contest.
  • Our entry was Fitter Critters, and out of 63 entrants it took 2nd place.  SO we were really happy about that.  
  • This is really at the heart of  our approach.   In many health games, there is insufficient attention paid to the quality of the player experience.   We believe that games must be games first and foremost, and that cannot be sacrificed in service of real-world objectives, because that is self-defeating. 
  • Fitter Critters was intended for use in classrooms, and our education consultant prepared an 8-lesson interdisciplinary unit plan calibrated to national standards for teachers to use to integrate the game into classroom instruction. It's full of worksheets, overheads, fun games and activities.  I've brought along printed copies, and if you'd like to have a look just let me know.
  • So how does the game go about changing player behavior?
  • Critical to guide design decisions toward the central persuasive objective. These are often best left implicit in the game itself -- but more about that in a minute.
  • When we were first sketching out the game on index cards, its two core messages were the only unchanging part of the design.
  • So everthing in the game is built toward these two ideas.
  •   Players need to adopt your core messages as a working hypothesis, and then test it out in the game.
  • To prove eating better leads to a better quality of life, we built a tiered system of rewards into the game, where one success leads to another. If the critter is consistently served better food, then its health goes up.  If its health goes up, then it's more productive at work and wins more games.  Those things allow it to earn  more money.   It also gets sick less often -- getting sick means that the player can't compete in games or work -- so that also allows it to earn more.   Players can then spend the money on decorating their homes. FInally, this feeds into a social reward because players' friends can visit their house and see all the fancy bling they'be got. But at the root of all of this is learning to make better chjoices about food, which is not stated explicitly anywhere in the game.
  • Let the player make your argument for you.
  • Players can discover better food choices.  They may find, for example, that a sorbet is a wonderful dessert -- containing no added sugar and a good service of fruit.
  • They can discover that a garden is a great source for food.  Players can save their money by harvesting abundant fresh vegetables from their garden.   They are challenged to discover the advantages that growing your own fresh vegetables can create.
  • FInally, they can exercise their creativity and invent recipes to create healthier meals.  The game actually awards higher sell prices than the player paid for the ingredients the more nutritious the complete meal is.
  • If healthy foods exclusively offered advantages and unhealthy foods exclusively offered drawbacks, the game would offer no opportunity to learn.
  • It sounds weird, but there has to be some advantage to making the wrong choice.
  • If eating one apple had magically gave the pet super strength, then the game would miss the opportunity to teach a lesson that could generalize in the player's own life.
  • In closing, games can be a tool for behavior change, which is incredibly valuable in the health games sector because the very best health care is prevention. We need tool that can transform the habits and predispositions of patients and the public at large.  I see games as an ideal medium for that.
  • Research! We want to bring Fitter Critters into classrooms.


  • 1. Transforming children's attitudes toward nutrition John Ferrara Bri Lance
  • 2.  
  • 3. Agenda 20% 30% 30% 10% 5% Overview of the challenge Game demo Strategies for creating a persuasive game Shameless padding Adorable baby pictures     Pie charts 5%
  • 4. 'Sup. Playful Design Creating Game Experiences in Everyday Interfaces December 2011 John Ferrara Lead designer, Fitter Critters Co-Founder, Megazoid Games   Now playing: CityVille, Prof. Layton, Team Fortress 2
  • 5. What causes childhood obesity?
  • 6.  
  • 7. Access to healthier options is improving
    • Through the National School Lunch Program, public secondary schools are offering students healthier options in the cafeteria. RWJF, Bridging the Gap    04.May.2011
    Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 In 2010, 12 states developed policies to improve access to healthy foods in school venues. National Conference of State Legislators   25.Apr.2011
  • 8. Access alone isn't enough
    • There must be  transformation.  Children need to:
      • Understand the nutritional attributes of food
      • Build a knowledge base of better & worse food choices
      • Develop skills to interpret nutrition information
      • Learn to value healthier food choices
  • 9. More than anything, the problem is cultural.
  • 10. "I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition." Michelle Obama
  • 11.
    • Challenge to create games that teach 8- to 12- year olds healthier eating habits
  • 12. Virtual pets.  Real nutrition.
  • 13.
      • Player is responsible for maintaining the health of a virtual pet
      • Must shop for the critter's food, cook for it, and feed it
      • Each day the player must fill the critter's green bars without filling the red bars
  • 14.
    • Goal #3 : To educate
      • Understand the nutritional attributes of food
      • Build a knowledge base of better & worse food choices
      • Develop skills to interpret nutrition information
    Our strategic goals for the game
    • Goal #2 : To persuade
      • Learn to value healthier food choices
    Goal #1 ...
  • 15. To entertain!
  • 16. A quick demo
  • 17. Unit plan for teachers
  • 18. Designing to persuade
  • 19. 1. Define a core message
    • A persuasive game
    • must be designed around
    • a clear and concise statement
    • of what you want players
    • to do or to believe .
  • 20.  
  • 21.  
  • 22. 2. Tie the message to strategy
    • Games drive players
    • to find the most efficient ways
    • to win. 
    • If the message represents
    • the ideal strategy,
    • then the process of playing
    • serves as a proof of its truthfulness.
  • 23. We built a tiered system of rewards Better food choices Health goes up Greater productivity, more sports wins, sick less often Earn more money Trick out your pad Social rewards
  • 24. 3. Enable self-directed discovery
    • Self-directed discovery persuades
    • by giving people
    • a feeling of ownership
    • of the insight they've uncovered.
  • 25. Discovering better food choices
  • 26. Discovering better food sourcing
  • 27. Discovering healthy recipes Players can cook, combining ingredients into prepared meals. Meals of greater nutritional merit are worth more than their constituent ingredients
  • 28. Meals can be sold to the restaurant for a profit. Other players can then purchase them, enabling social learning.
  • 29. 4. Offer meaningful choices
    • If there is no advantage
    • to making the wrong choice,
    • then there is
    • no choice at all .
  • 30. Effects of high-calorie foods
    • Advantages:
      • More energy for sports games
      • More energy for work
    • Consequences:
      • Exceed daily limits faster
      • Critter starts rejecting healthier options
  • 31. 5. Keep it real
    • Video games' capacity
    • to simulate the conditions
    • of the real world
    • can impart credibility
    • to embedded arguments.
  • 32. Fitter Critters has real nutrition data for 675 actual food items
  • 33. ...and the daily objectives are based on real consumption guidelines
  • 34. Conclusion: Changing behavior
  • 35. So what's next?
    • We want to bring Fitter Critters into classrooms!
    • We're interested in talking to prospective:
      • Investors
      • Partners
      • Advisors
      • Clients
  • 36.
    • Email:   [email_address] Twitter:  @megazoidgames
    • Book: