This brief talk will discuss my personal experience of cultural differences in creating and financing a serious game for sexual health project on both sides of the Atlantic. Although the talk does not focus exclusively on LGBTQ communities, as the topics of sexual health and serious games are relevant to nearly everyone, specific attention will be paid to how some traditional approaches to preventative outreach programmes contain value-laden language which disadvantages LGBTQ groups. The goals of the talk are to highlight cultural differences in shareholders and funding of serious games which impact sexual health, particularly for queer sexualities, in England and the United States. The data for the presentation comes from my lived experience as a researcher and game designer in both countries.
To provide context, in the autumn of 2015 I began a research project to investigate how serious games might be utilized to mitigate anxieties surrounding sexually transmitted infection testing. The end goal of the project was to help at-risk populations of young people (generally) and men-who-have-sex-with-men (specifically) have efficacy to access freely available, and yet underused, sexual health resources in the United Kingdom, where I was working at the time.
Before the project could begin in earnest, I moved to the United States in the summer of 2016. I did so to take a job with the University of Utah where I found not only the sources of funding to be different, but also the prioritizing of healthcare. Instead of re-examining the allocation of resources and how to most effectively provide healthcare service to at-risk populations like the NHS, the Centre for Disease Control’s focus is on the prevention of contraction- which is often with embedded moral messages .
In considering these different cultural approaches to sexual healthcare, this talk aims to discuss how these differences impact the creation of serious games. Overall, audiences will leave the talk with a greater understanding of cultural differences between healthcare distribution models, how these differences affect serious game development, and how they affect access to STI testing for at-risk populations.
Ashley ML Brown is an assistant professor at Entertainment Arts and Engineering at the University of Utah where she teaches Game Design and Game User Research. She is the author of Sexuality in Role-Playing Games (Routledge, 2015) and many other publications regarding sexy fun times in games. She received her PhD in 2013 from The University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, and previously taught at Brunel University London. She now resides in Salt Lake City with her animal companion Isabelle.