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Students receive national award for developing computer game

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cleanliness at the local day care is certainly not a No. 1 priority for most male college students, but for six Michigan State University students in a recent course, it’s a reason to celebrate.

Aaron Berton, Jason Conley, Joe Fitzgerald, Addam Pushman, David Sahlin, Tom Stark and Eric Vogel used the idea of cleanliness in child-care centers to create a video game that earned second place at the Future Play Academy Games Student Award Competition on Nov. 16.

The students created the game as a project in their Game Design capstone course last fall. The group’s client, the MSU Food Safety & Toxicology Center, asked for an instructional video game to teach employees of child-care centers the importance of good hygiene. What they got was much more.

"Cleanly Child Care" places the player in a day-care simulation in which they are given an overall sanitation score based on their performance on mini games like washing their hands, cleaning the toys and changing diapers. Players must have either a good or satisfactory score on all these tasks in order to win the game.

“I think it’s a lot more fun to learn this way than actually just watching videos or reading pamphlets about it,” says Eric Vogel.

The educational aspects make this an example of serious games, video games that go beyond just entertainment.

But Vogel admits making a serious issue like sanitation enjoyable was a challenge. The group did field research in daycares including Tutor Time and the Spartan Child Development Center on the MSU campus.

Based on observing real day care centers, the group added opportunities in the game for the player to play games with the children like rock, paper scissors and hide and seek rather than only focusing on sanitation.

-Megan Roney, MSU journalism senior

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