Gaming and Sex Education

Using Computer Simulations for Investigating a Sex Education Intervention: An Exploratory Study

Anastasia Eleftheriou, Seth Bullock, Cynthia A Graham & Roger Ingham

Background: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are ongoing concerns. The best method for preventing the transmission of these infections is the correct and consistent use of condoms. Few studies have explored the use of games in interventions for increasing condom use by challenging the false sense of security associated with judging the presence of an STI based on attractiveness.

Objectives: The primary purpose of this study was to explore the potential use of computer simulation as a serious game for sex education. Specific aims were to (1) study the influence of a newly designed serious game on self-rated confidence for assessing STI risk and (2) examine whether this varied by gender, age, and scores on sexuality-related personality trait measures.

Methods: This paper undertook a Web-based questionnaire study employing between and within subject analyses. A Web-based platform hosted in the United Kingdom was used to deliver male and female stimuli (facial photographs) and collect data. A convenience sample group of 66 participants (64%, 42/66) male, mean age 22.5 years) completed the Term on the Tides, a computer simulation developed for this study. Participants also completed questionnaires on demographics, sexual preferences, sexual risk evaluations, the Sexual Sensation Seeking Scale (SSS), and the Sexual Inhibition Subscale 2 (SIS2) of the Sexual Inhibition/Sexual Excitation Scales-Short Form (SIS/SES – SF).

Results: The overall confidence of participants to evaluate sexual risks reduced after playing the game (P<.005). Age and personality trait measures did not predict the change in confidence of evaluating risk. Women demonstrated larger shifts in confidence than did men (P=.03).

Conclusions: This study extends the literature by investigating the potential of computer simulations as a serious game for sex education. Engaging in the Term on the Tides game had an impact on participants’ confidence in evaluating sexual risks.

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