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On Gaming, Learning, and Health Research: Brandon Hill



Our daily development blog series for the alternate reality game, The Source, continues with the perspective of Brandon Hill, a researcher at the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3). Brandon writes about our interdisciplinary research and evaluation plan for the game.


My core area of research is focused on intervening mechanisms of behavior and behavioral change. I come from a diverse background in psychology, behavior, sexual health and gender studies. As a behavioral scientist, I am very interested in novel approaches to learning and health behavior.

The Source links gaming, learning, and health together in a particularly unique way. In order to evaluate the impact of The Source our research team at Ci3 has taken a multidimensional and interdisciplinary approach. This means we rely on the strengths of a diverse group of researchers and faculty member at Ci3 and The University of Chicago, who bring expertise from multiple disciplines as well as interdisciplinary thinking to our project and research. With backgrounds in English and Media Studies, Public Policy, Health, Psychology, Medicine, and Gender Studies our team designs, implements, researches and evaluates The Source in a multifaceted way. This leads to a synthesis of new thinking, challenging and expanding our respective training. Thus, our team draws on mixed methodological approaches to understanding how The Source is influencing the players’ learning and understanding and potential health outcomes. Working in such a diverse, yet tightknit, interdisciplinary team we generate new epistemologies, or new ways of thinking, about sexual and reproductive health, learning, and gaming among young people.

Our research team’s goal is to ask innovative questions on how unique approaches to engaging young people in interactive learning and decision-making affects their ability to uptake information in a novel way and apply this new knowledge to their own lives. Presently, the researchers at Ci3 have collected initial questionnaires from players who have chosen to participate in The Source study evaluation. These questionnaires give the researchers a sense of where the players are based on their background, health behaviors, existing knowledge, and educational information. Additional questionnaires will be given at the end of the summer. These types of questionnaires allow us to compare the potential influence interactive gaming and learning may have on a participant’s knowledge base, education, and health behaviors.

Another component of our multidimensional approach to evaluating The Source is qualitative research. This type of research employs observation, interviews, and focus groups (group interviews) to capture the individual experiences of players in The Source. Our mixed method approach allows us to evaluate the potential impact of The Source in a holistic and novel way, breaking away from one-dimensional evaluation and moving toward research that is inventive, efficacious, and impactful. Using this approach we are investigating the main questions of What is an effective mode of intervention for adolescents? and What components of an interactive STEAM/health-based game like The Source has a positive effect on young peoples’ behavior?