Fall 2017 Prototype | Arthouse | Unity (Mobile)
Blood Myth – Educating about Sickle Cell Disease through Gaming
Blood Myth is a fast-paced platformer mobile game, dedicated to raising awareness for sickle cell disease and re-educating teens suffering from this genetic illness about self-care measures to prevent pain crisis.
Who wants to be reminded all the time to drink plenty of water, make sure to rest up, do regular doctor check-ups, take medication, dress in layers and avoid extreme temperatures and drastic temperature changes? Certainly not teens. Yet, all of these things play an essential role in reducing pain crisis and the necessity for hospital visits for those suffering from sickle cell anemia – a genetic blood disorder that affects approximately 100,000 Americans.
That’s why we created a game that broaches the discussion in the least preachy way possible. To ease sickle cell patients and their friends and relatives – for whom playing the game serves the purpose of increasing understanding of the disease and promoting dialogue – into this difficult topic, we chose a metaphorical route. By setting the game in the mystical land of Kanduur and putting the player in the role of a Drakom, a member of the Dragon tribe that is born with “cursed blood”, we aim to tap into player’s imagination and to more effectively engage them into this very real issue of managing the disorder.
Playing as Spiko, a young, androgynous dragon tribe member, you set out on a journey to climb the mythical Mount Nwiiwii. You heard of a legend – the Blood Myth – that no one who makes it to the top, is cursed. You understand this to mean that if you complete your journey, you will be cured.
Your hike towards the snowy mountain top mirrors a trajectory through the four seasons. Starting in Spring with moderate temperatures, you make your way through Summer, Fall and into Winter. Each season is a game level and comes with its own challenges connected with sickle cell anemia. To complete your journey, you must carefully monitor your hydration level and body temperature, avoid exhaustion and heat / cold traps, and stop regularly to drink water, rest and cool off / warm up. The hydroxyurea leaf that you can collect throughout the levels also provides protection against the Red Monster that appears unpredictably and has a very high chance of initiating pain crisis, if you’re not on medication.
Apart from managing your physical health, the player encounters several Spirit Totems on the way – stone statues imbued with the spirits of the travelers who had come before. They prompt personal reflection about what it means to have sickle cell disease and raise the question of whether the “curse” is real or just a matter of perspective.
The game serves an educational purpose and is above all meant to convey a message of hope. All in-game writing was produced by or in collaboration with people with lived experience of sickle cell disease. The sickle cell community played a crucial role in identifying the game’s core metaphors, providing feedback to its messages and themes as well as the character design. Deep Games Laboratory collaborated strongly with Dr. Lewis Hsu, a pediatric hematologist and leading figure in the field of sickle cell research. Dr. Hsu has generously donated his time and expertise to educate the design team on the illness, review the game and provide feedback regarding medical accuracy along every step of the way.
Development of this year long project would not have been possible without the financial support of the Sarowitz Family, a grant from the Chicago Digital Media Production Fund as well as a DePaul University Research Council grant.
 https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/sicklecell/data.html (accessed Oct. 17th 2017)
- Android: OS 4.1 or later;
- ARMv7 (Cortex) CPU with NEON support or
- Atom CPU;
- OpenGL ES 2.0 or later.