What is it about?

This article focuses on the design and preliminary experimentation of a tabletop game called Kitchen Table, created to encourage more empathy towards people with severe anaphylactic food allergies. To measure the effectiveness of this game, the study ‘Use of Persuasive Games to Promote Empathy for Persons with Food Allergies’ was conducted at the University of Waterloo in collaboration with the Games Institute and Department of Geography and Environmental Management. This study involved volunteers completing a Likert scale-based pre-playtest questionnaire, playing the game, and then completing a post-playtest questionnaire identical to the original. Their pre-playtest and post-playtest responses were compared to measure the degree to which attitudes changed as a result of playing the game. In the end, the game was demonstrated to encourage more empathy towards people with severe anaphylaxis through the production of emergent narrative from the interaction between the players, the game mechanics, and the participatory community experience.

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Why is it important?

The reinforcement of negative stereotypes of people with food allergies, exacerbates the stigma already experienced by people with anaphylaxis (Dean, 2015, p. e49), in some cases even leading to differing levels of support and acceptance among members of the anaphylactic person’s own family, who are also often negatively impacted by a prominent lack of empathy towards the situation. Drawing on my own experience designing board games, I developed a co-operative prototype board game to determine if such a game could be effective in increasing feelings of empathy towards persons with anaphylaxis. Called Kitchen Table, the applied tabletop game was designed to address issues around food allergy awareness through the production of emergent narratives of empathy, and served as the basis for the study I conducted called the ‘Use of Persuasive Games to Promote Empathy for Persons with Food Allergies’.

Perspectives

Through the development of Kitchen Table, I was able to experiment firsthand with the use of emergent narrative through applied games, in this case applied to generating greater empathy towards people with severe food allergies. By establishing this preliminary study, my hope is that this experiment will set the groundwork for a great multitude of further studies based on the use of an applied game to solve a problem, distinguished now by the understanding that it is the emergent narratives that affect the lasting changes more so than the game mechanics themselves.

Ryan Clement
University of Winnipeg

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This page is a summary of: Playing with the Kitchen Table: Using persuasive games to promote empathy for persons with anaphylactic food allergies, Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds, March 2021, Intellect, DOI: 10.1386/jgvw_00029_1.
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