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Playing to learn

Playing to learn

Perhaps no group plays video games more than teenagers. Led by Beverly Black, the Jillian Michelle Smith Professor in Family Violence Research in the School of Social Work, a research team is capitalizing on the comfort many teens have with technology.

Tell us about the video game you and your team developed to help teenagers make wise decisions about substance abuse and relationship violence.

“Choices and Consequences” stemmed from a Department of Commerce-funded project to develop an Internet substance abuse prevention community for teens. Our research found that teens preferred game delivery of prevention materials over other forms, and this is our first major research project to capitalize on that preference. The Amon G. Carter Foundation and the Innovative Community Academic Partnership provided funding for us to get started. In the game, students compete to develop a fun, risk-free weekend for a 13-year-old. There are many actions to choose from for each activity they select.

The game is being piloted at a local school. What have you learned from students so far?

They generally say that they believe “Choices and Consequences” could help prevent substance abuse and relationship violence and that they learned many lessons by playing the game. One girl said, “I learned to never drink something that I didn’t pour myself.” Another stated that she learned different ways to effectively respond in situations involving substance abuse and relationship violence.

What do you hope to accomplish with the game?

There’s a significant need for the creation of innovative prevention programs for teens that address substance abuse and relationship violence. We hope to develop an appealing and challenging social game for youth that will run on smartphones, tablets, or computers. We hope it will prevent substance abuse and dating violence behaviors through changes in knowledge, attitudes, norms, and self-efficacy.