Games in Healthcare

Serious Game Raises Awareness About HIV and AIDS in Kenya

A Scene from Pamoja MtaaniAlthough they were originally made for recreation, video games have made their way into the teaching experience within the last decade. In Nairobi, Kenya, the video game titled Pamoja Mtaani (roughly translated as Together in the Hood) is teaching young people in the capital city of Nairobi about the risks of HIV/AIDS as well as prevention strategies.

The game was developed and distributed by the private entertainment company Virtual Heroes through a partnership between Warner Brothers Entertainment and the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. It simulates real-life situations in which characters find themselves at risk of contracting HIV in realistic settings within the city. In order to advance through the game’s levels, players must decide the best course of action to solve the problems their characters face. Read More...

During production of the game, Virtual Heroes took a number of trips Kenya beginning in March of 2008. They consulted widely with Kenyan youth during these visits, asking them their opinion about different types of video games and trying to gauge their tastes.

Brad Wilson of Virtual Heroes said that, no matter which of the five characters the player chooses, they eventually end up doing something that will put them at risk of contracting HIV. Through their daily interactions, participants will learn the true risks and ramifications of their behaviour.

The game also realistically portrays the changes that occur in real life when the player makes certain decisions. The development team hopes the Kenyan youth will understand the game’s message, but so far the results have been positive.

University student Evelyne Mwandia said that the characters in the game taught her about HIV prevention and how to protect herself by having only one partner and using a condom. Pamoja Mtaani was launched in December 2008 and is targeted towards young men and women ages 15 to 19. The game is available for youth to play for free at four sites in Nairobi.