Social Media and Elder Abuse Prevention

So this isn’t a game design concept but illustrates, in much the same we approach using existing game structures to address social issues, how broader social media applications and services can be easily repurposed to address social issues.   

I had a great opportunity to take part in a conference at the Institute of Medicine on the use of communications technology to prevent violence.  There were several types of violence to be addressed through working groups and then presented/expanded in workshops at the conference. I was given the category of Elder Abuse and was paired with two very accomplished individuals Xinqi Dong (our content expert) and Donna Levin (a very accomplished technologist doing great things at

You can read more about the whole proceedings here.

Our groups paper can be found at page 111.

The pre conference mock-up (ie static page) of our ideas can be seen here.

Here is a brief chronology of the concepts and design thinking:

1.  Xinqi Dong initially gave us an overview and context for what elder abuse is and the broad definition of abuses that occur.  It was both sad and overwhelming.

2.  Donna and a group over at did some great preliminary awareness campaign advertising concepts.  One of which you can see embedded in the web-site about half way down on the left.  Led to the idea of using as the hypothetical organization or campaign.

3.  Our team over here did a round of social media brainstorming and came up with the following translations of existing systems modified or re-skinned to different uses for elder abuse (top of web-page to bottom) and integration of existing items that need better visibility:

A.  A section similar to that use videos from users to push for awareness and policy change.

B.  A tool similar to many sex offender watch dog sites that enables location based reporting and database of cases to help family members or individuals be aware of things going on in their neighborhood or elder care homes.

C.  Integration of the silver alert system for missing elders.  This is similar to the amber alert system but could be better promoted as I wasn’t even aware it existed.

D.  A support group locator – There are lots of networks out there and increased awareness and ability to reach out to them could help through a simple comprehensive location based database

E.  A major issue being perpetrated against elders is financial abuse through internet phishing or door to door scams so a similar alert network to amber or silver alerts could allow neighborhoods, families, or individuals know of trending scams and be vigilant against them.

F.  It Gets Better has been a great campaign for supporting the LGBT community.  The shame of being a victim of elder abuse is a major hurdle and implementing something similar to their work could help de-stigmatize this type of abuse and empower victims.

G.  Simple Facebook sharing and network notifications  could help promote the issue and help propagate the alerts.

H.  Online pledges are great for advertising and broadening networks as people share and pass along the message.

4.  The workshop group was very supportive of these ideas and brought several other great additions to the table that are not pictured such as:

I.  A user generated definition of elder abuse widget i.e. Elder Abuse = (input your story here) so that it can grow to include all forms and make everyone feel included who is suffering and help broaden our understanding across cultures and geographies.

J.  Links to research being done.

K.  Online petitions and letter campaigns- essentially ways to easily interact with current legislation and legislators.

L.  An advocacy resource section for people working in the field.

M.  A strong ad concept that would visually look similar to the one embed in the page that could be repeated with images of different elders from all ethnic backgrounds and reads “Elder Abuse =” with a list of items: emotional, physical, sexual, neglect, fraud.  And written across the bottom “A victim every 2.7 minutes”

All of these would be great.  I could see a redesign of the site that specifically breaks out sections of the site and targets the information for the elders themselves (alerts, support groups and info, the video campaigns etc), family members and the community (resources for reporting, researching, getting involved) , educators and activists (links to resources and research).

There are obviously lots of great organizations out there dedicated to this cause.  We would love to support any of them in the realization of a site like this.  If you are one of those groups or someone interested in using this as a springboard to start an organization ( sounds pretty compelling to me) we would be happy to share/support/work with someone to make this a reality.

Contagious – The Pitch Pt. 2 – The Location Game

So if you read/looked at the initial pitch post for this game you saw the red carpet event sensor game/experience. The basic premise was obviously to make you feel like you are experiencing an outbreak with the slightly lighter side aspects of the experience being that ushers could take you off to quarantine, to get vaccinated you need to go to the bar, and to be treated you need to go get popcorn etc. The payoff potential being that it makes it seem a little more real to the audience and that the data visualization that could be displayed when exiting, extrapolating how it may have spread and killed members of the audience while they watched the movie from just a couple of infected viewers, could have one last reality punch.

Well, one of the individuals representing the potential client loved this idea and wanted to go bigger with it. We were more than happy to go along for the ride. The idea – What about a sporting event? We loved it. So we went back to the drawing board and expanded the game idea to happen at a baseball game. It was the perfect venue as it is slow paced and people do a lot of walking around. We claim no affiliation to the team or stadium used in our pitch. I will say that surprisingly the willingness of a team to go along was not the reason this didn’t end up happening. It would have been awesome in my opinion.

I will let slideshare tell the story – again I promise at some point to put narration to it for the talking points but hope you can easily fill in the blanks yourself. One note is the infected slide was a blinking red led and dead is solid (not sure slideshare could handle that).

Some of my favorite ideas in this one were:

a) The idea that instead of turning in your drunk neighbor you would text in to quarantine someone who is not participating and is infecting your section. The response is then a guy in an outbreak outfit coming in with a short range transmitter to quarantine his badge,
b) that there would be even more reason to boo someone from the other team when they did something positive or cheer your team for positive play.

We went so far as to have manufacturing ready to go on the hardware. Stationary beacons for the set locations, roaming beacons for the outbreaks due to player action or time, and of course the individual badges. As much as we would have loved to chase the opportunity, without the movie name backing we would never have gotten this through – again more on the business narrative in a later post including a whole other option for where and how this game could be repurposed that we think would be great.

Stay tuned there is still another design layer that was added as well as the business musings to come.

Get’em Grocery – Mobile Game Design/Prototype

So this one came about because we were working on some mobile projects and wanted to try out our skills on some things.  The team also needed a break from what we were doing and wanted to do something from scratch.  We carved out a part each week and dedicated it to the “new” project starting with a mobile game design brainstorm.  Take a look at the slideshare to check out the concept and the model behind it.  We actually built the app, so we have a functional version of most of what you see.

I’m not going to go too deep into our design process but in general we thought about the interaction possibilities, the locations, the motivations, the objectives, the outcomes etc.  This is not exactly how it went as there were whiteboards and long lists of options laid out but here is the final idea logic

1.  Lets do a location-based game – where can we do it?   Where are there ready objects for being able to scan or use as inputs?  Barcodes at a grocery store!

2.  What is a common location based game mechanic?  Scavenger hunts!

3.  Why would you want to do a scavenger hunt in a grocery store?  To find ingredients!

4.  Why would you have to find ingredients?  To get ingredients!

5.  Why wouldn’t you know what the ingredients are?  It’s a mystery recipe!

6.  How would you figure out what the ingredients are?  Clues!  Mini-Games!

7.  What would motivate you to want to engage in the game?  To get the recipe!  (good – but may not be enough) To entertain the kids! (also good (important for thinking about audience) but what if I don’t have kids?)  To earn a discount! (good – people like coupons)  To give to a foodbank! (very ImpactGames of you – rough idea being a more complicated version of Free Rice).

8.  Who would want to fund this?  The Grocery Store!  (good answer – they would benefit from people buying more items by walking around more and impulse buying or just buying the recipe)  Advertiser!  (good – people would be actively trying to buy certain product so seems like a logical time to promote a certain brand)

9.  Where do we get our content from?  Jamie Oliver! (would be awesome – could be another motivating factor for why to play and at the same time promote healthy eating)  Cook Book Companies!  (They would definitely have a reason to promote their recipes)

10.  Who has the infrastructure to do all of the above?  Grocery Store Chains and Food Networks!  (Good answer –  we have approached one but not all so maybe this is where it will eventually find a home)

In the end we realized that this wasn’t a product, with all of the diverse biz dev involved to sign up advertiser, grocery stores, cookbooks, that we were able to dedicate huge resources to at this time to grow organically.  We would love a partner in making that happen.  Is that you?  Are you an interactive ad firm that could make all those different parts come together?  Are you a food network looking for something innovative with the ad sales team ready to roll?  Are you a grocery store chain that has the right demographic and a desire to market in a new way?  As we said, the game does function so let us know and we would be happy to show it to you.

Contagious – The Pitch Pt. 1 – The FaceBook Game

As is common in the serious game industry these days, we were asked to pitch a product as part of an RFP that I won’t name specifically (but should be easy to figure out if you use your brain).  The project was to be an awareness campaign in association with an upcoming movie release.  We jumped at the bid because there were two passions around here that fit perfect into a game idea that came to us right away.  My passion for wanting a facebook game to exist that had an actual narrative arc, a beginning and an end, and a sensor game that we had wanted to do for a conference that didn’t work out. In the end, the game(s) weren’t produced and we retained the IP around the idea, making it possible for me to freely post it here – more to come on that in later posts on the business side of it all.  (Another caveat – this was done over a year ago so some ideas may not seem as novel now and changes to Facebook may have made this whole thing impossible as designed.)

Attached is a Slideshare of the actual pitch that we made for the game.  I promise at some point to add narration to the slides so you get the talking points, but I think most you should be able to follow along the basic design concepts.

The high level game ideas that made it interesting to me were:

a) It was more cooperative in terms of shared resources and meaningful actions between you and your friends and the community at large, not just using them for things in your separate worlds,

b) it translated your actual networks and groups into game variables i.e. more exposure points balanced by access to more resources – translation: the rest of your facebook world has an actual impact, substituting your real world social and geographical exposure points for digital networks etc. etc. ( interesting outcomes would have been people leaving groups to avoid higher exposure rates etc – one of our guys here is a fan of some 500 things, we figured he would be dead in a week),

c) tie-ins to educational actions in the real world that aren’t just to get points to use but actually related relatively one to one to the game actions (more on this in a later expansion to the design),

d) interesting statistical and visualization options,

e) and on the personal – due to my frustration with never ending, never winnable, or losable games on facebook – the ability for you to die in the game, ending your active experience tied in with a legit win state for the community: “eradication.”

You will see at the end of the presentation the other bonus item we threw in related to how cool would it be to have had a location game/experiece at the red carpet opening.  I will address this more in the next post as it is relevant to the ongoing narrative of the pitch progression as well.

Play the Election 2012: Going Live With Play the News Election Edition

We have had the amazing opportunity to partner with Rand McNally to launch, free to schools and educators, an election version of Play the News for the 2012 US Presidential Election.

You can go straight to the site here.

And view the Press Release here.

This was a great opportunity to do a lot of things we have wanted to do for a long time. Over the years we have conducted a lot of outreach to schools and foundations because we think Play the News could be great for the classroom. We have also heard from many of you educators out there requesting the opportunity to use it in you classes.  Here is our chance to find out if it is as great as we all hoped.  Sorry to the rest of you Play the News fans since this version is specifically set up for educators and students, but hopefully if this is successful enough (with your help) we can leverage it into partnerships and opportunities that will help us bring back the open to all broad news topics platform.

Inside you will find all kinds of extra teacher resources to help integrate this into your classroom or community including the opportunity to create your own game stories. Stay tuned as I hope to hold a couple webinars down the line to interested teachers on the game creation process.

ImpactGames Refresh

The overhaul of the ImpactGames web-site was long over due.  My complete lack of blog posts over the last couple years has also been a source of shame for me.  So, I am happy to say that I am going to remedy both of those situations with the announcement of our new site as well as a rapid fire publishing of several blog posts highlighting some of the other projects we have been working on over the last couple years.  I realize this is not the proper way to maintain an active blog but it’s a start.  We look forward to hearing your thoughts on some of our new projects and ideas.

ImpactGames at DevLearn 2010

DevLearn is right around the corner!  We’ve been busy working on a few items for the conference that allow you to play and learn.

First up, we’re proud to be sponsoring an instance of BackChatter, the fantastic twitter game created by Local No. 12 which premiered at the Games Developer Conference last year. BackChatter allows players to place “bets” on words that are used in tweets marked with the conference hashtag. It’s a super-fast, easy and slightly addictive way to engage in the conference. Plus we’ll be giving away prizes to each round winner as well as the finalists! The first place overall winner will receive a Premium Membership to The eLearning Guild!!!

DevLearn site: DevLearn10

BackChatter site:

Secondly, Kris Rockwell, ImpactGames CEO, will be presenting at the Serious Games Zone on Play the News and the idea of using gaming as a way to present news media and create a rich experience for users. As part of this, Kris will give a preview of the updated version of Play the News and show the game in action. Kris will also be speaking as part of the Mobile Learning Jam, covering a variety of topics from development to games on mobile devices.

As always, if you want to talk to us about ARG’s, mobile learning or Serious Games and how they can help your organization, just send an email to Alexi Morrissey at or send him a tweet at @hybridlex and we’ll be happy to setup a time to talk to you.

We look forward to seeing you at DevLearn 2010.

Changes at ImpactGames

I wanted to write to our community to update you all about a significant event for ImpactGames.

We have recently sold our award-winning PeaceMaker and Play the News platforms to Hybrid Learning Systems.  They have also taken over the ImpactGames brand so that our products could enjoy a seamless transition into their company.

This is a bitter-sweet moment for us as a company as we were not able to maintain the necessary resources to see our vision through.  However, on the positive side we believe we created products with meaning and value that found a good home for their future.

Hybrid Learning Systems has both the resources to carry on where we left off and new skills that will take them beyond.  They share our vision and mission for the possibilities that our work represents and are committed to taking them to new places.

While ImpactGames in its current form is not moving on, as many of you know our co-founder Asi Burak has since become the Co-President of Games4Change, I am happy to announce that I have accepted a position with Hybrid Learning Systems.

Feel free to visit this link for the formal announcement about the acquisition: Press Release

And with that I would like to introduce to you Kris Rockwell CEO of Hybrid Learning Systems who wanted to add a few words to this post.  I am sure you will be seeing more from him in the future.

Eric Brown
CVO, ImpactGames

Kris Rockwell’s words:

“The acquisition of the ImpactGames assets was unexpected but very welcome.  Peacemaker alone is an important game covering a very delicate issue and both Eric and Asi have created an amazing work that more that speaks for itself.

Undoubtedly we have some very big shoes to fill. It is our intention to continue to grow the Peacemaker platform and continue to support its existing user base. We are very honored and excited to be a part of this process.

We are very pleased that Eric has agreed to join us as Chief Visionary Officer of ImpactGames. His vision, experience and remarkable talent will help us continue to grow and keep on the path that he has set with his work.

I am very pleased to be working with Eric and look forward to growing ImpactGames while continuing to keep it on the path of socially responsible gaming. It’s very exciting to keep such an important effort in the Pittsburgh area and I look forward to talking with the existing user community over the next few months.”


Kris Rockwell
CEO, ImpactGames

PeaceMaker: Launching the Educator Community

I am writing to announce the launch of a PeaceMaker Educator Forum.  We have now had over 2 years of teachers and students playing PeaceMaker.  Over these 2 years we have had many inquiries from teachers, researchers, and even prestigious press organizations as to how the use of PeaceMaker has contributed to classroom and out of classroom learning.  Who better to answer these questions then those of you who are teachers and students.

We would be very grateful if you could quickly answer the following relevant survey.  I promise you that it is a very short survey and will only take a couple moments of your time.

Educator Survey

Student Survey

The goal of this outreach is to create a central repository and community where you can share with each other all of the different ways that PeaceMaker can be used to enrich learning and community initiatives, provide testimonials to promote the use of PeaceMaker in and out of the classroom, and create a list of individuals that are willing to be contacted by peers and press.  We would love for you to visit the Forum at forum(dot)impactgames(dot)com (sorry for not hyperlinking it but it has started to be apammed), and even better to contribute your own testimonials and lesson plans for others to learn from.

We greatly appreciate your continued support.

Play the News – Call for Partners

We have recently outlined two new projects that ImpactGames would love to pursue.  Based on multiple discussions we have had with leaders in the educational space and our own internal experience with creating content for both ourselves and clients we feel there is a timely and genuine potential for the use of our Play the News Platform as a teaching and training tool.  We welcome you to review the following proposals:

(1) Play the News in the classroom (K-12) – A proposal that focuses on the creation of educational modules for a range of subjects: 

Download Educational Proposal Here

(2) Play the News to teach new media journalism – A proposal that focuses on teaching new forms of journalism and discussing the future of interactive journalism:

Download Journalism Education Proposal Here

As always we are continuing our discussions with media outlets and content providers that are looking to broaden their digital and community offerings.  You can view our media partner presentation here:

Download Media Partner Proposal Here

We are also open to other creative applications and ideas on how our work can be integrated with other efforts.  We hope that these proposals will serve as a starting point for discussions.