Games have been used as educational tools for years, as you probably know if you’ve been hanging around Pixelkin for long. One game in particular, recently profiled by Yahoo News, is a shining example of exactly how important this education can be. The game is called Stroke Hero, and it’s teaching kids to identify the symptoms of a stroke.
There are a whole lot of depressing statistics I could lay on you right now. Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Luckily, there’s some good news. Strokes are preventable, and if you recognize the symptoms quickly, you might not only save the victim’s life but also dramatically reduce the amount of brain damage. If you’re prepared, you could make all the difference in the world.
Dr. Olajide Williams, chief of Neurology at Columbia University Medical Center, is an expert on strokes. As part of his community outreach program Hip Hop Public Health, in which he teaches kids health and safety tips with music, Williams designed a video game to explain why strokes happen and how to avoid them. To see if the game could make a positive impact, he observed 210 fourth and fifth graders play the game for just 15 minutes at school.
He specifically chose to test the game on low-income children living in Harlem, because many of them were living with their grandparents. Most people who have strokes are over the age of 65, which means these children were more likely to encounter a stroke than kids being raised by younger guardians. Indeed, 25% of the children tested had already had a personal experience with a stroke victim.
Williams kept track of the kids after they played the game, encouraging them to play at home on their own. What he found was extremely promising. Not only were the kids 33% more likely to recognize the symptoms of a stroke, the knowledge was still there when he checked again seven weeks later.
Williams explained his findings in a research study, which was published by the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke. Stroke Hero is not the only game that teaches life-saving skills. The National Stroke Association hosts a game called Think Fast!, which teaches similar information. What’s really interesting about Williams’s story is how long the children were able to retain their knowledge. Williams admitted that the research is not perfect, due to the small number of test subjects and the lack of a control group, but it is certainly good news for potential victims nonetheless.
I checked out Stroke Hero myself, which is free to play on the Hip Hop Public Health website. To get to Stroke Hero, create a username and password, and then click “Check This.” After answering a pop-quiz style question about health and safety, you’ll find Stroke Hero in the left sidebar, all the way at the bottom of the page.
Full disclaimer: the Hip Hop Public Heath website is…a little dorky. It’s a bit too reminiscent of 1996 in its artistic style, especially the music videos (which you’ll find listed next to the games). But Stroke Hero’s design is not as bad as the rest of the site. If you can make it past the aesthetics of the homepage, Stroke Hero really deserves a chance. Who knows—it might save your life someday.