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Students create games to encourage healthy living

Posted: Updated: Sep 25, 2013 06:46 PM
MARIETTA, Ga. -

If your kids are into X-Boxes and PlayStations, the good news is that it may not be such a bad thing. Students at one metro Atlanta college are creating their own computer games with a healthy spin.

Gamers know what they like and what they don't like, so the Georgia Game Developer's Association challenged them to channel their experience into creating a new kind of computer game. They gave students at Southern Polytechnic State University 48 hours to create a game to make health fun.

Senior Joshua Skelton was one of about 300 gamers -- divided into 75 teams -- who took park in what the school says was the largest "Game Jam" in the country.

"It's very challenging, because you have to make it fun, and fun can be very objective," Skelton said.

Each team chose a health message, taking a topic like nutrition or healthy habits  -- even teen pregnancy -- and making it fun.

"You have to be really creative about how you convey that message, because if the audience doesn't react to it, then your message is lost," Elyse Watson.

Watson's team created a board game, cutting out little pictures for each piece.

But to win, the game needed to do more than be liked, it's got to teach.

"Even if the game play is flawless, if you can't get your concept across and internalized in the player, then it's a moot point," said Watson.

Skelton is a believer that you can reach kids like nothing else through a really good game.
 
"You take a kid who has played "Call of Duty" --  and I've been with third graders, and they do play "Call of Duty" -- but take a third or fifth grader they can tell you every aspect of that game from start to finish, but ask them things they learned in school and they couldn't tell you start-to-finish every aspect," said Skelton.

Professional game developers are judging the Game Jam entries. The winning teams will be announced next week.      

The winners of the Health Game Jam will receive a month-long paid internship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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