Charles Hughes, University of Central Florida computer-science professor, stands in front of avatars developed for new game (Photo: University of Central Florida)
As if real-life pressures for young girls to have sex were not bothersome enough, now the federal government is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop a video game simulating situations where preteens are thrust into sexual situations.
The National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded a $434,000 grant to the University of Central Florida to develop a video game for Hispanic children ages 12 to 15 that will use avatars to simulate sexy situations.
University nursing professor Anne Norris and university computer-science professor Charles Hughes will work with the university’s Institute for Simulation and Training for two years on the project.
“A boy similar in age might approach the person playing the game and ask her to make out or there might be some sexual innuendo,” Norris told Fox 35 News.
Players will wear a motion-capture suit to control movement of the life-size avatars.
“It’s a place to practice where there aren’t any social consequences,” Norris said.
The plan is to use the game in after-school and youth outreach programs to help girls ages 12 to 15 learn how to respond to peer pressure to have sex.
Norris told Fox 35 that the game sounds risqué, but she claims it’s not.
“They’ll have an opportunity to interact with the avatars, and they’ll earn points for particular social skills that they develop,” she said.
“Our ultimate goal is to reduce pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease among the young Latina population,” Norris said in a report posted on the university website.
Developers are now collecting focus-group data from students in Orlando’s After-School All-Stars program based at Stonewall Jackson Middle School.
After the game is developed, it will be tested on Hispanic girls.
Norris said game developers are focusing on young Hispanic girls for a variety of reasons: They have higher teen birth rates and higher rates of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases than white peers.
She also said the best time to teach girls abstinence and peer-resistance skills is during middle school – before they become sexually active.
The students’ progress will be evaluated three, six and nine months after they begin playing the game. Norris said if the game is successful for the girls, a similar game may be developed for youth of other ethnicities.
Developers expect to finish the game by spring of 2011.