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Client: Wilhelmina kinderziekenhuis | Universiteit Utrecht

Playing is not only fun, it is vital for healthy development. For example, by playing together you learn many social-emotional skills. For example, what do you do when someone gets angry or when you don’t get your way… For chronically ill children, it is sometimes difficult to play with peers, which means they have less opportunity to train these skills. For the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital, we developed a game in which chronically ill children can increase their social-emotional skills together with healthy children.

Together on a Mission

To make it as easy as possible for kids to play together, even when you’re in the hospital and can’t see anyone, Ratjetoe is an online multiplayer game. With 3 or 4 players you will help Robot Ruby on his mission; learn more about emotions.

During the game, players help Ruby fill his database so he knows what emotions are out there and when people are feeling them. Important information for a modern robot! Each level focuses on 3 emotions.

 Learning about emotions

As players navigate Ruby through the world, there are 3 types of assignments they must unlock. In these assignments players are challenged to reflect on their own emotions, analyze emotions of game-characters and share own emotions with the group. While playing, there is a video link that allows players to interact and discuss their answers with each other.

Testing, testing, testing…

The challenge with this assignment was to get children to discuss together the things that happen in the game world as well as things they have experienced themselves (sharing their own emotions). And that it had to be a game with sufficient fun and replay value.

By testing the game frequently we were able to make many validated design choices. For example, we switched from a flat game world to a 3D world that you can drive through, further buttons do not come directly on the screen when an answer needs to be discussed and the various game instructions are now clear also for children of 8 years old.

The result is a game in which heavy subjects are discussed and at the end children ask when they can play again!

Healthy play, better coping

From Lego to Pokémon-Go: how does play help children cope with chronic illnesses? That is the research question that the researchers of Healthy play, better coping (collaboration between WKZ and UU) are working on. Ratjetoe is one of the projects that will be researched this year. Hopefully with a positive outcome, so that many more children can play with it!