Game For The World
By Megan Wadding, July 2015.
The idea for a simple board game that would focus on HIV/AIDS education and prevention is helping to change the stigma of the disease worldwide.
Anne Harman, Game For The World creator.
The game’s creator, Anne Harman (pictured), has called Tucson her home for more than 20 years. Harman grew up in Canada, but lived and worked in South Africa for more than a decade in the 1980’s, which is where she initially observed the stigma surrounding the disease firsthand.
“AIDS is a huge problem in Africa,” she said. “There is no one that isn’t affected by it.”
Today, Harman works as the CEO of Mallan Group Training and Management Inc., a company that produces KnowMe interactive games. These specially tailored games, which range from youth to corporate professional comprehension levels, focus on teamwork, diversity and a number of other issues.
So, it only seemed fitting that the idea for a game that would center on HIV/AIDS awareness was brought to her attention.
“Years ago, my distributor in South Africa said we really need a game on HIV/AIDS,” she said. “I resisted that because I knew nothing about AIDS, and then realized that I didn’t have to know anything because there were experts could help me.”
Harman said she immediately extended her resources, found some HIV/AIDS experts and began to work on the game she called Game for the World.
Anne Maley, former executive director of the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF), proved to be an excellent resource for Harman.
“[SAAF] was already using KnowMe, so [Maley] was familiar with the game,” Harman said. “She offered to give me ideas about what Game for the World should include and what it should cover. She was great at helping me align the issues and she gave me access to the SAAF clients, which was invaluable.”
Harman also contacted Dr. Kevin Carmichael of Tucson, who was a friend of a friend. Carmichael is one of the leading doctors in AIDS, according to Harman, and she had his staff play the game and give her feedback.
“I got to interview a number of people with AIDS who could tell me about their experiences,” she said, “[A]nd who tell me what could work or not work.”
As for the format of the game, Harman said she let it follow the same process as the KnowMe game, which is one of disclosure and feedback.
“You’re either telling the group something about yourself and the way you see HIV/AIDS, or you’re asking the group about how they see you and your attitude around AIDS,” Harman explained. “We used that process because we knew it was effective.”
Harman officially launched Game of the World at the International AIDS Conference, held in Mexico City in 2008, and it was met with immediate success.
To date, more than 3,000 games have been distributed, in seven different languages, around the world.
“When we exhibited at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, we were overwhelmed,” she said. “We gave the game away. It is in over 32 countries mainly because of that.”
Photos courtesy of Anne Harman.
AIDS in Africa
Africa remains Harman’s focus, not only because there is such a great need, but also because the stigma surrounding the disease remains large.
“It’s a disease that can be totally prevented. If we can get people talking about it and not ashamed about it, they are far more likely to get tested, to take precautions and to talk openly with one another about it,” Harman said. “I made the decision to focus on south and east Africa, just because otherwise, as a one-person non-profit, I wasn’t going to be effective. My focus has been South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.”
Harman believes that the stigma is slowly changing in Africa, and she hopes her game will contribute to this shift.
“There is a school in Tanzania that we visited where they’ve been using the game for about three years. The kids have taught other kids how to use it and they even take it around to other schools to teach them. But they also want to take it around the community and show prisoners and policemen how to use it,” Harman said. “To me, that’s a huge indication about stigma being removed, that kids feel confident to go use it with the police or people in prisons. I love it when things happen that you didn’t expect, that are better than you even wanted.”
Teachers have also been integrating the game into their classrooms, with amazing results, Harman said, adding that she received feedback from teachers in Tanzania who noticed that students who had been trained in the game and who teach the game to other students, are doing much better in school overall.
“It has also increased their leadership skills, their speaking and debating skills and also their confidence,” Harman said. “Those are wonderful fringe benefits.”
The game is doing especially well in Kenya, Harman reported, due to the dedication of a local non-profit organization that received approval from the Kenyan Ministry of Defense there for use of the game in schools – it has officially been integrated into 50 different Kenyan high schools to date.
Harman said she has been back to Africa to distribute the game at least five times and she plans to keep going back as many times as it takes.
Bringing It Back Home
While Harman’s goal is for the game to continue to be distributed worldwide, she said she would also see it introduced in schools here at home, too.
In the meantime, several local organizations have implemented the game to address a variety of their needs.
Stacey Jay Cavaliere, one n ten’s director of programs, said he ordered four sets of the game once he heard about it.
“one n ten plans on using [the game] … in our regular programming groups at the one n ten Youth Center and satellite locations as a fun and educational tool to inform and educate the youth about HIV, stigmas [and] prevention,” he said.
The game will also be a part of the organization’s upcoming HIV Positive Youth Retreat.
“What I like about [the game] is that there are questions related to HIV, like facts, statistics [and] risk factors, in addition to questions to ‘get to know’ the other players,” he said. “It is very interactive and easy to play.”
For every game purchased, a game is donated.
For more information and to order the game, visit gamefortheworld.com.
Photos courtesy of Anne Harman.
The Name of the Game
At the time of its creation, no one would have known that the game’s name, Game for the World, had prophetic significance.
To date, more than 3,000 games have been distributed to approximately 32 countries and translated into seven different languages.
According to Harman, the game continues to evolve with every new country it’s introduced to. The instructions have changed the more the game has been played, the language changes with each new location and even new game pieces have been introduced to provide more cost-effective alternatives.
“It has evolved and we’ve had to change and simplify the instructions,” Harman said. “It has taught me that the game will continue to evolve with time.”
Still, some aspects will stay the same. For example, the game’s instructions state that each player should honor confidentiality of the other players, and that players should give honest and constructive responses.
The game includes the game board, a playing cloth, one die, six pawns and one pack of cards and was meant to be played in a group setting with four to six players. The game is designed for played ages 12 and older,
Players take turns drawing cards with instructions such:
• Tell the group how you think your life would be different if you had HIV/AIDS.
• Ask the group members if they think you have ever lost a friend or family member to HIV/AIDS.
• True or False: Women are eight times more likely than men to contract HIV/AIDS from one act of unprotected sex. (Answer: True)
The object of the game is for players to increase their knowledge and awareness about HIV/AIDS and to express their views, values and attitudes. The ultimate object, as stated in the instructions, is to “help in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS.”
Harman said that just by the act of playing the game, conversations are sparked, and that alone can change things in a very healing way for people affect by the disease.
“It can be played by … people with AIDS because they don’t have to disclose their status,” Harman explained. “It’s very healing for people who have AIDS to play it because they don’t often get a chance to discuss their experience. I’ve had a number of people say how healing it is to just be able to talk.”