A Nutrition Game in Second Life

A Nutrition Game in Second Life

United States
Project Summary
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Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

A nutrition game in the online, virtual world of Second Life that emphasizes the effects of fast food on health in both a short and long term context.

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Plot your innovation within the mosaic of solutions
Which of these barriers is the primary focus of your work?

Insufficient Evidence that Games Improve Health

Which of the principles is the primary focus of your work?

Physical Health

If you believe some other barrier or principle should be included in the mosaic, please describe it and how it would affect the positioning of your initiative in the mosaic:

This field has not been completed

What is your signature innovation in one sentence?

A nutrition game in the online, virtual world of Second Life that emphasizes the effects of fast food on health in both a short and long term context.

Describe your innovation. What makes your idea unique and different than others doing work in the field?

The Nutrition Game is a simulation game that exists in the online virtual world of SecondLife (www.SecondLife.com). The game simulates a single day of food choices. A player begins the game by inputing some personal statistics and is given a personalized caloric budget based on the values. From there a player can begin walking around several virtual restaurants including a fast food restaurant, Soul food restaurant, and a Chinese restaurant. The player can look at menus and get detailed information about the food offered. The player can choose three meals from any of the restaurants and statistics about the foods the choose will be recorded as they go. Once all meals have been decided, the game will analyze the players diet. The player will be told how much weight he or she may gain in a week, month, and year by continuing the current diet. The player will also learn how their fat and cholesterol intake compares to recommended values and what ailments they may expect.

What barriers exist that are creating the problem your innovation is hoping to address/change?

The popularity of fast food has grown significantly over the past few decades, and this has had a large impact on the health of our society. Improper diet and poor eating habits are an increasingly alarming concern among people of all ages in our country. Fast food is often consumed out of convenience with little thought given to the nutritional value and the impact the food has on health. This is a barrier to improving the dietary health of our society as a whole.

Delivery Model: How do you implement your innovation and apply it to the challenge/problem you are addressing.

The Nutrition Game has been developed inside Second Life. The game is a simulation of one day of food choices. At the beginning of the game the player enters their age, weight, height, sex, and activity level and is given a personalized caloric budget. A player is then able to visit a variety of restaurants, view information about the foods, and choose meals to consume. After three meals have been chosen the players health in analyzed in both a short and long term context. In this way a player is able to see immediately the effects that certain foods and eating styles have on their health that would take months or years to become evident in real life. A player is also able to experiment with different eating styles and see the impact without actually risking their health to do so. Because Second Life is a virtual world it easy for a player to feel immersed and engaged in the world and relate their experience there to real life.

How do you plan to scale your innovation?

Second Life is freely available over the internet and the game is in a publicly accessible place inside Second Life so the capacity is already there to reach a large number of people easily. The game can be played by many people at the same time, just as a typical fast food restaurant can service multiple people at the same time. The game could be accommodated to serve a larger number of people by adding more restaurants.

Provide one sentence describing your impact.

This game gives players a realistic idea of the effects that fast food had on their health in both a short and long term context.

What impact has your innovation had to date? Exactly who are the beneficiaries of your innovation?

A short survey was created to asses different aspects of the game. Twenty responses were obtained from different sources. These sources included 2 groups of college aged men and women attending minority health seminars, peer students working on other Second Life projects, and a group of senior computer science students, all of whom had played the game. The survey revealed many positive findings. When asked how much was learned from the game on a scale of 1 to 5, one being the lowest and 5 being the highest, 65% respondents reported a 4 or 5, and 94% answered with a 3, 4, or 5. This gives a good indication that almost everyone took something away from the game and the majority of people learned quite a bit from the game. Because the game is free and publicly accessible, many people have already benefited from this game and will continue to benefit from it. Anyone who is aware of the game and wishes to play it may obtain a Second Life account and play the game.

How many people have you served directly?

The game is free and publicly accessible, so it is very difficult to determine exactly how many people have been directly served. The game was showcased at two minority health seminars hosted by Ohio University which approximately 35 people attended between the two. The game was also played by a group of 8 high school students visiting Ohio University and several other peer game developers. These people have been directly affected by the game. It is unknown how many people have played the game independently and have thus been directly affected.

How many people have you served indirectly?

A paper written on the game was presented at the Second Life Community Convention in Chicago, Illinois this past August. Approximately 100 people attended the presentation. A video explaining the game was posted on YouTube two months ago and has been viewed over 600 times since.

Please list any other measures reflective of the impact of your innovation

At the Second Life Community Convention in Chicago the developers of the game were approached by multiple people seeking more information about the game or interested in using the game in their own initiatives. Many emails have been received inquiring about how to get more information about the game to use in presentations as well.

What are the main barriers to creating your impact?

It would be very helpful to have more professional input to more thoroughly analyze the health affects of fast food. Another helpful element of having an impact would be increasing the awareness of the game so that it may reach more people.

How is your initiative financed?

The VITAL Lab at Ohio University received a grant from the Ohio Commission for Minority Health that funded the creation of the game.

Provide information on your finances and organization: annual budget, annual revenue, number of staff:

The VITAL Lab at Ohio University has close to $2m in current grant funding and has a team of over 20 faculty collaborators, graduate and undergraduate students, and full-time administrators and researchers.

What is the potential demand for your innovation?

High schools, middle schools, college nutrition and lifestyle classes, and fast food companies may use this game to enhance public education on topics related to food and health.

What are the main barriers to financial sustainability?

The unpredictability of grant funding is the main barrier.

The Story
What is the origin of this innovation? Tell us your story.

Dr. Chang Liu (assistant professor of EECS at Ohio University) first contacted Christopher Keesey (graphic designer for Ohio University without Boundries at Ohio University) and myself (student of computer science at Ohio University) with idea of collaborating on a project. Christopher Keesey had built a fast food building in Second Life but had not decided on a purpose for yet. The university had recently received a grant from the Ohio Commission for Minority Health and Dr. Liu had the idea to create a health game to promote minority health making use of the fast food restaurant. Dr. Liu oversaw the creation of the game, Christopher served as the graphic and created the look and feel of the game, and I was the student developer who did the programming for the game. Creation started in November of 2006 and continued full force until April of 2007. During that time it went through many transformations. The game started with a single restaurant with three menu options. Eventually the menu was expanded and a Soul food and Chinese restaurant were added. The game finally evolved into its current form through the hard work of all the people involved.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers marketing material

I am currently a graduate student at Ohio University pursuing a masters degree in computer science and expect to graduate in June of 2009. Dr. Chang Liu is an assistant professor of Computer Science at Ohio University. Christopher Keesey is a graphic design artist for Ohio University Without Boundaries at Ohio University.

How did you hear about this contest and what is your main incentive to participate? (this is confidential)

I heard about this competition by word of mouth. I am participating in this competition with the hope of increasing the awareness about the work and research that has been done on this project and on educational games in general. The idea that video games can be an engaging way to teach concepts is a relatively new idea that needs to receive more attention.