Tap That is a mobile game created for Android and iOS that aims to teach teens about sexually transmitted infections.
It's a project that I spent my last year at Design and Technology working on and has been featured on The Daily Dot, Refinery29, Bustle, Examiner, Rappler, The Next Web, Fusion, Sex Tech Guide, 触乐 and more.
The full-length thesis paper and documentation can be found here.
Tap That is a mobile game being developed for Android and iOS that aims to teach the basics about sexually transmitted infections to players from the ages of 13 to 15. However players of different ages may also benefit from playing the game. In the game, players become a guardian angel who must make sure their sexually active human charges stay healthy and alive. This becomes challenging as there is a monster who is intent on eating your human charges by infecting the humans that come into contact with your charges with sexually transmitted infections. Players, as the guardian angel, must use tools available to them (condoms, vaccinations, checkups, cures and treatments) to ensure their charges stay in good health until they manage to starve the monster to its demise. The game requires a focus to detail and quick decision making as the number of human charges increases and the number of infections players have to keep track of increases through level.
It started with a problem. I was born in China, but grew up in Canada until the age of 14, when my family and I moved back to China. In Canada we had sex education. But when I moved back to China, from middle school to undergrad, the only sex education I received was a pamphlet shoved underneath my dorm room door, along with some takeout flyers. As a result, I've had friends who didn't know better about protection become accidentally pregnant and had abortions in their teenage years.
In the United States, things aren't much better. The United States has the highest teen birth rate in the industrialized world, and young people make up for half the cases of all new STIs a year. Yet, most schools in the United States tend to focus on abstinence-only education, which has not been proven to prevent teens from having sex or getting STIs.
So I started to think, what could I do to make up for the lack of decent sex education that teens were receiving in a way that was both appealing and unawkward? I found my solution in mobile games, since people tend to spend a lot of time playing them. Though at first I wanted to create a game that taught about all aspects of sex education, I quickly realized that scope would be far too large and decided to focus on sexually transmitted infections.
Having never made a game or used Unity 3D before, I started my process by doing lots of research on existing sex education games, successful mobile games and of course information about STIs. I then started sketching out several concepts and building prototypes that I ultimately decided against because play-testing revealed that those concepts weren't fun to play. If a game isn't fun to play, then there's no point in it being educational. So I went back to the drawing board and came up with the concept behind Tap That, as well as the code in Unity, game visuals, and marketing materials.
The game has been play-tested with teens between 12-17 year olds with great results and feedback, first with a paper prototype, and then with a demo version on both Android and iOS. Their feedback has really helped me shaped Tap That into what it is today. In fact, through their feedback, Tap That has gone through several names, from The Sex Ed Game, to Bumping Uglies and finally to Tap That.
As of yet, the game is still a work in progress and not available for download.
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