On April 2, 2020, Chair of the Department of Communication Studies, Associate Professor Yifeng Hu and Assistant Professor of the Department of Interactive Multimedia Josh Fishburn, together with public health and communication studies double major students senior Katie La Capria and junior Deanna Amarosa, presented their innovative video game for alcohol education project, “Fresh Start: Creating an Interactive Video Game with Narrative Immersion to Educate College Freshmen about Mindful Drinking,” at the Kentucky Conference on Health Communication, one of the two major national conferences focusing solely on health communication.
The project was accepted as a competitive panel, and was scheduled to be presented at the pre-conference on Cutting Edge Communication and Information Technology in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, due to the perfect fit of the content with the theme. While the conference was set to take place as an in-person event in Lexington, Kentucky, the conference organizers managed to seamlessly transition the event online due to COVID-19. About 50 attendees tuned-in to the virtual event via Zoom to learn about Fresh Start.
Fresh Start contributed valuable ideas to the theme of Cutting Edge Communication and Information Technology in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. During the presentati
on, the team invited conference attendees to play a short portion of the game where players tried to pour standard drinks of different types of alcohol. Even though it was only a few minutes, this added interactive session fully utilized the nature of the virtual conference and offered audiences a hands-on opportunity to get a flavor of the video game. People felt the session was fun and loved the mini-game they played.
At the conclusion of the presentation, the Fresh Start team received positive feedback about the entire game from those in attendance. One audience member, Kate Ksobiech, Associate Professor of Health Communication at University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, especially showed interest in Fresh Start by asking if the game could be customized to a given campus, such as use of college-specific clothing for the characters in the game. This is something that the Fresh Start team is working toward for the future. As of now, this innovative educational video game is being piloted with TCNJ athletic teams and Greek life organizations in a current study assessing user learning outcomes and gathering feedback. The game is near complete and has the potential to eventually be used as the mandatory alcohol education training for incoming TCNJ freshmen.
Presenting at the Kentucky Conference on Health Communication was an especially valuable and rewarding experience for La Capria and Amarosa. The students have been very devoted to the project and are excited about how far along it has come, so they are grateful to have had the opportunity to present it to professors and scholars in the field at the national level. Listening to other presentations on Cutting Edge Communication was inspiring for the students and it gave them a glance at other ways in which information technology can be applied to health promotion and disease prevention.