Teaching Youth Food Safety: A Game-Based Learning Experience


In redesigning the original game, developers kept the initial educational goals, while expanding the theme. After conducting user testing and focus group work with youth, designers decided on a theme park motif, with different “lands” or themed areas of th e park (Figure 1). Gameplay was intended to be similar to the original

game, but specific types of mechanics needed to change. For example, time pressure is often seen as a barrier to gameplay for individuals with motor skill needs, or those with cognitive impairment. Similarly, users who use alternative input devices may not be able to mouse over and click an item, and must play a game with keyboard controls. The design team re-designed the interactions with the game to reflect best practices in usability, while keeping the basic tasks the same.

The game world for the redesigned game is a theme park, where players explore five themed areas: The Tricera-stop; Aquari- yum; Outer Space Eatin’ Place; Med -Eat-Val; The Haunted Muchin’. In each area, players prepare and serve various foods to customers. Just as a new employee might learn to prep simple foods first and then move on to more complicated orders, the game uses a scaffolding approach to learning.

Players start in the Tricera-stop, serving drinks and microwavable single plates. Then they move on to the other themed kitchens, where they learn to prepare more complex foods, including combination foods such as a cheeseburger with veggies. More complicated foods require the player to use different stations and steps to prep the food, including a wash station for produce, grill station for meat, and a chop station.

Figure 1: “ Theme Park Kitchen ” game, available at www.ThemeParkKitchen.com

Washing Hands and Surfaces

Players start by learning the basics of hand washing. At first, the head chef tells the player to wash their hands, and gives instructions (Figure 2). The game player can see the contamination on the server’s hands and trays. After the initial level, the chef doesn’t always explicitly tell the player to wash their hands, but the sink is always available. The player can choose not to wash their hands, but if they make that choice, they cross-contaminate all of the food and make the customers sick. Similarly, the game progresses with the head chef explaining how to serve, cook, and deliver food — but it is then up to the game player to follow the proper processes.

Cooking Ready-to-Eat Foods, Frozen Foods, and Fresh Produce Figure 2: Theme Park Kitchen tutorial on handwashing, guiding players to keep hands clean.


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