Zombies are the new vampires as the ratings for the television show The Walking Dead suggest. But in addition to illustrating our fears of a pandemic, they can also be used to provide insights on how to conquer one.
Tiltfactor, a company in the Games for Health section of the mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C. this week, has been using a zombie invasion board game, an iPad app and a card game to figure out the best ways to educate people about vaccinations. In the games, players figure out which people need to be inoculated to stem the spread of zombies.
Ironically, (at a conference centered on mobile health, anyway) in a study evaluating the impact of a zombie pandemic game on vaccination education for high school students, the board game and card game proved more effective at raising awareness about the value of vaccinations than the original, non-zombie app called Pox.
The concept for the game grew out of Pox, a game TiltFactor developed with the Mascoma Valley Health Initiative to address misinformation about vaccines. It’s a major public health issue that has caused spikes in infectious diseases like measles that effective inoculation programs had all but eradicated. Fears that childhood vaccinations could somehow lead to autism or other health problems has led to some states experiencing a worrying level of exemptions from their inoculation programs.
Sukdith Punjasthitkul, who works with Dr. Mary Flanagan, Tiltfactor director, to develop games for the company, said it’s doing follow-up studies to better understand the data. He explained that people from different cultures and demographics tend to favor some gaming formats over others.