Memorial education student Matthew White is using his gaming powers for good.
On July 15 the PhD candidate will launch a video game called Fly vs. Car, which was created through his start-up game design company, Snow Day Games.
Mr. White is an expert in video games and the effects they can have in education. Half of the proceeds from the game will go to a Seattle-based children’s hospital charity organization Child’s Play, which places toys and games in children’s hospitals where patients don’t often get the chance to get out and be kids. Child’s Play provides donations of toys, games to children’s hospitals throughout the world, including the Janeway Hospital in St. John’s.
“Gamesforchange.org gives a long list of different games that have had meaningful effects on people’s perception, ability to learn, and encounter different situations that they might not otherwise have been able to do,” said Mr. White. “Games like World of Warcraft, for example, raised the awareness of colour-blind people by including colour blind mode to differentiate red and green. So it then raises the awareness in mainstream media that colour blindness is much more common than we think.”
The idea to start Snow Day Games emerged when he and some colleagues attended the 2010 Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco.
“I’ve always been interested in games that can make a difference in some way or another, so we were more than happy when Child’s Play said they’d like to partner with us,” he explained. “It was a wonderful way to simultaneously help someone else and get some recognition as a young company.”
The game involves tilting your iPhone or iPod back and forth to dodge cars as a little bug. Mr. White said that in addition to helping children learn, games can also be used as intervention technologies to help disabled people or people with limited mobility experience sports and play in a way they might not otherwise be able to.
“Perhaps the most well-covered example was with geriatric wards and the Nintendo Wii, for increasing people’s mobility, getting them moving, getting social activities happening within senior’s homes – these are all little side examples of games having a positive effect on people’s lives, outside of just being fun,” he said.
He attributes his capabilities for creating the game to the skills he learned at Memorial.
“I’ve learned a lot in my studies at Memorial on how games can have a meaningful effect on people’s lives as cognitive therapy, and this is just another example of that,” said Mr. White. “I took some special needs courses as part of my bachelor of education degree at Memorial, and a lot of that gave us the background on how technology and other technological interventions were helping people who were less fortunate in various ways. So that knowledge combined with my own personal interest in gaming gave me the skills I needed to create this game. The work I’ve done throughout my PhD has enhanced those skills, plus I’ve been exploring how games can be used to close gender and societal gaps. So it’s a lot of that reading and encouragement from faculty and staff that has allowed me to branch into game design with more of a purpose than just for entertainment.”
Fly vs. Car will be available at the Apple iTunes store.