With support from the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury, the serious game, “Walk in my Shoes” is a joint-effort production project of Novonics Corporation and the UCF RETRO Lab. The objective of this work is to help prepare deploying soldiers for the myriad of psychological challenges they will face during the stages of deployment.
The larger simulation has been developed to deliver instructional content and is populated with several minigames that are used to reinforce the lessons taught as well as provide practice spaces. Minigames such as these are inexpensive to develop, yet have proven to be quite powerful vehicles for instructional delivery and practice when embedded within more complex simulations. Our vision was to develop a set of minigames that were both fun and effective. To do so, we considered the nature of the lesson we sought to impart and tried to be innovative when coming up with ideas for actual gameplay. Additionally, these minigames are completely student designed, developed, and managed.
We designed and developed seven minigames which are integrated into two segments in “Walk in my Shoes.” In the Pre-Deployment segment, we provide information about resources available to servicemembers, give some guidance as to the enormous amount of tasks that must be completed before deployment, introduce players to cognitive reframing, and even provide players practice with conflict management skills. In the Post-Deployment segment, we focus on reintegration skills.
When preparing to deploy, there are numerous different tasks that must be completed, such as appointing power of attorney, setting up how taxes will be paid, and taking care of insurance. To-Do List is a driving game that takes players through these tasks. Driving from location to location familiarizes the player with everything they need to accomplish before they are deployed and provides some additional background information and, occasionally, tips for each task.
|To-Do List Trailer
There are numerous resources available to servicemembers, such as Tricare and VA hospitals. Usually, individuals are provided with extensive lists of available resources, however they are often underutilized. The biggest barrier here is one of confidence: With so many different numbers to call, often an individual is unsure of which resource to use for their needs and does not want to face the embarrassment of calling the wrong service. Phone Dash is a minigame that provides players practice with selecting the appropriate resource needed to address specific needs.
|Phone Dash Trailer
Devil’s Advocate 1 and 2
Cognitive distortions and thoughts are negative, maladaptive ways of thinking. Devil’s Advocate 1 helps to fight cognitive distortions by taking an individual through the first step of cognitive reframing therapy — automatic thought identification. Players take control of Judith, an otherworldly being whose job it is to eliminate soldiers’ cognitive distortions. The players must move undetected around a base and sneak up behind an individual who is currently plagued by a negative automatic thought. They are then tasked with identifying and labeling the specific automatic thought the soldier is having. Once they apply the correct label to the automatic thought, a new, positive thought replaces it. In Devil’s Advocate 2, players go further and actually analyze the automatic thought and choose which functional thought best replaces it.
|Devil’s Advocate 1 & 2 Trailer
Devil’s Advocate 1 was a finalist in the 2011 Serious Games Showcase & Challenge at I/ITSEC. Devil’s Advocate 1 also took home the bronze in the 2011 Serious Play competition in the Government/Military category. You can read more about it in our blog!
Conflict Management and Conflict 2: Fear Fighter
The goal of these two minigames is to provide the player with a safe-practice space for conflict management skills. In the first game, the player is in an argument and is tasked with responding in the correct way to diffuse the situation. For example, during the mock conversation their spouse may say to them, “It’s all your fault. I’m right and you’re wrong. Why don’t you just admit it, and stop being so stubborn?!” They have to choose from one of four options as how to appropriately respond. All of the options represent examples of different communication styles, both good (e.g., thought empathy) and bad (sarcasm). As a part of our reintegration strategies instruction, in Conflict Management’s sequel Fear Fighter players are confronted with conversations they may have after deployment that might make them uncomfortable. For example, in the game a friend asks the player if they killed anyone while overseas. This time, players must first manage their distress using relaxation techniques before choosing the appropriate response. The choices are adaptive in that if the player’s character is too upset, they will only be able to choose from negative responses.
|Conflict Management and Conflict 2: Fear Fighter Trailer
In “Walk in my Shoes,” we needed some sort of interesting way to assess the progress of the player. This minigame we set out to develop would serve as a capstone experience. To achieve this, we required the player to answer questions about all of the different content areas presented in the simulation. We used their performance on these questions to determine the sections they needed to review. To make this more interesting, we strove to gamify the quiz-taking process. Using correct answers as currency, we developed a tower-defense serious minigame, Garden Defense.
|Garden Defense Trailer
|Lab Directors||Drs. Clint Bowers & Jan Cannon-Bowers|
|Instructional Systems Architect||Dr. Anya Andrews|
|Subject Matter Expert||Dr. Michael Kofler|
|Phase 1 Production Mangers||Danielle Chelles, Lucas Blair|
|Phase 2 Production Manager||Katelyn Procci|
|Programmers||Skyler Goodell, Gregory Pardo|
|Additional Writers||Katelyn Procci, James Bohnsack|
|Usability||Katelyn Procci, James Bohnsack, Tanner Olsen, Benjamin Repkay, Josh Janjua, Arun George, Shan Lakhmani|
|Research Coordinator||Katelyn Procci|