Posts Tagged ‘hacking health’

“Ya, people can’t believe I have PTSD. I mean, you? From Medicine? From a Canadian hospital? I mean that’s unpossible, you must be over reacting. So I tell them the part that’s the least traumatic for me, because I was already traumatized. ‘Ya, I had partial awareness during abdominal surgery’. That usual shuts them up right away.”  — eta a line from one of my presentations
It’s been too long. I was on vacation for three weeks, then back to work and my Surface Pro 2 decided to update Windows and self destruct. I fixed it, but it ate up a lot of time.

I presented a demo version of Gynaecologist…what? (A point and click adventure / visual novel to teach gynaecology patients what to expect at their appointment.) at the Ehealth conference as part of  Hacking Health. Like all games jams I went too big. Meaning it was impossible for me to finish my project, but very possible for me to make enough of it to show off what it could do.

If I had stuck to the original premise, that it would just simulate a normal gynaecological experience, then I could have had that done, but I choose to represent a variety of experiences. Some standard, the way it should go in theory, one realistic the way it should go, but with minor errors on both the patient’s and medical profession’s side, and other that are critical, one commenting on institutional misogyny in medicine, another my own experience which caused my PTSD, what’ it’s like for a patient with medical PTSD to attempt to go to the doctor, and one where nothing can go wrong ever.

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Before anyone jumps into defend doctors, I am aware experiences aren’t black and white. It’s complicated. One of the modes I want to work on closely with a doctor is playing from their experience. I can’t imagine it’s easy to be a doctor. I thought about medicine as a career a long time ago, and decided that I couldn’t take the stress. My perfectionist nature would destroy me.  While I am critical, I am also fair. The stories I have to share about these experiences are important.

Other modes I’d like to do are ones where encounter other types of discrimination: ableism (I’ve heard one too many stories of people with visible disabilities getting talked to like they have a cognitive impairment), racism,  classism, fear/mistrust of people with mental illness,  and so on.  I could spend a life time telling stories.

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I ended up picking Super Unicorn mode to bring to a finish. As a unicorn nothing can go wrong, which is about as probable as a unicorn existing. As a patient you can’t mess up: you won’t get lost, it doesn’t matter if you don’t bring your health card, and everyone is going to be super nice and helpful because you are a special unicorn.  And you won’t be sick, because unicorns don’t get sick. You exist in a protective bubble. One of the participants at Hacking Health mentioned they enjoyed the cheekiness of it, and also admitted they thought they were a unicorn and nothing bad could happen to them.

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I had to present my game twice. The first presentation I vaguely remember. I know I got into having medical PTSD and how I was excited to work with someone who knows how it’s actually suppose to go. I ended up working on the game solo, my partner had previous commitments.

The next day I spent working. It was really great that Gevity sponsored a place for us to work. I really appreciated it.  I was the only person at my table, which meant people seemed to think I wasn’t part of Hacking Health, despite having a small LEGO set up. It resulted in some awkward apologies when a judge came to see my work, and the people talking at my table realized they were not really suppose to be there and where probably interrupting.  It didn’t interfere with my work, but amusing how people have zero observations skills.

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I was hyper aware that I was the odd person out. That they didn’t really know what to do with me. My project was not like anyone else’s and I just decided to go for it. Forget it was a competition and make something I cared about.

The last day I gave a good presentation. I choose to do a live play through.  I made people laugh and made them horribly awkward at the same time. Of course, I got asked once again “Don’t you think this would be a better project for children?” (I was asked this question many times by men.)

In both of my presentations I explained “I have PTSD from gynaecology”, mentioned how they kept telling me to have children, and  talked about institutional misogyny. I assumed people would quickly draw the assumption that I am doing this work because it’s important to me, it’s personal, and guess that I have problems with my reproductive organs, and that the topic of children might be triggering. (I wanted a hysterectomy, but apparently I’m not allowed to make that decision as I apparently can’t possibly know that I don’t want children. As a result, I have part of a uterus that causes me chronic pain and will give me problems for its entire existence to give birth to children I’ve never wanted.)  I’m being kind by assuming, they saw LEGO and didn’t listen to a word that came out of my mouth and needed to fill the empty space with words.  It was frustrating, amusing,  but not surprising.

I was polite and stated no. That I was making a game for women, (I was asked who this game was for… ) That there was no need to make this kind of game for children because children have their parents, guardians and typically a social worker to help them through the hospital. That there are programs for children to help them get over their fear of the hospital,  medical professionals in general like children, whereas no one cares about adults. Adults need these tools because no one is looking out for them.

On the other hand, it was only men who approached me and told how much they loved my project and one was very pleased at how I made every doctor uncomfortable when I showed institutional misogyny mode.

We were encouraged to speak to the judges afterward and both I spoke to were fantastic (Gevity and Info Health Way). They loved the project and suggested that I try to get on the gynaecological speaker circuit because I am a good public speaker with an important. One was certain that both of her daughters would love it.

I’m gonna keep plugging away on it. I’ll release a larger demo for August. I’m using Camp NaNoWriMo to write the dialogue.  I’m gonna focus on Standard and Super Unicorn mode. I’ll probably dip into Realistic mode.

I’m still looking for medical people who want to share stories or give advice on the medical portion.whatcard

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The scope of this project is so large that it is very useful to make a lot of notes and lists to make sure everything gets done.  I have a mix of paper notes and digital notes. Part of them organize the shooting schedule (pictures I need to take and content that needs to be shown). Others storyboard ideas. Storyboarding is something I use when I shoot video art. It gives an idea of what the whole video will look like based on the different shots and often outlines some of the narrative.

The programming notes display the ideas and text I want to get across.  On my goodnotes, I have lists of registry numbers that will hold specific kinds of numbers and information. This is largely so I don’t have any overlap. I’ve also made sure to name all my global variables in advance, and have a list to reference what each of them do. E.g instead of calling it it variable001, I have healthcard.  If healthcard = 1, then you have your healthcard, if it =0, then you haven’t picked it up.

Drawing out the program and it’s branches makes it easier to follow.  The more pre-planing you do, the less complications you run into later.

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Been a while!  I was working on a totally different game for a little while for Femicon’s Theresa Duncan game jam.

I’m done the principal shooting, of course some stuff is gonna get left out and  added in later. Right now the goal is to get a working prototype ready to give the people of the E Health conference and Hacking Health an idea of the potential of this kind of game.

I have bunch of photo editing and cropping to do.

Lot’s of programming.

I think I’ll cut out composing right now, because making or finding music is a bit of a distraction.

I’ve talked to several people and there seems to be general interest in the game. The one thing I got the most demand for was a section where you have to call and book your appointment. I thought I was the only person who this part scared, but no, it seems it’s fairly common for everyone to be uncomfortable calling the office. What do I say? How much is too much information?

Out of the conversations I’ve had with people I’ve realized that the scope of the game is pretty huge and it has basically a never ending opportunity to grow.

NOTE: Everything requires a bit of editing.

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I had to make a dialogue box for the game. This is one of the experiments which will be the basis for the Protip and inventory box. That white frame will disappear before the E Health Conference




Intake Nurse weighing the player in the Unicorn costume. If you pick this outfit, nothing bad can happen to you ever. Unless… well you run into Lord Voldemort or someone turns you into a human and you learn what regret means. (yes, there are jokes, possibly terrible ones)




You’ll need to pick up objects from your apartment before you leave for the appointment. You can’t leave your house without your health card. I’ll have to ask a medical secretary what to do if you do leave your health card at home.

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I’ve got two games on the go right now. But here’s a few more shots of Gynaecologist…what?

I’ve used LEGO prick-a-brick walls and a combination of sets to create these locations. I’m photographing them with a SONY A5000.

Scene 1 – Coffee with a friend

In this scene our protagonist has coffee with a friend to discuss her health and options.  In this section you’ll learn a few basic tips and tricks to go to the doctor. However, you can also select whether your friend will be reassuring, realistic, or blunt.



Scene 5 – Reception
This scene players will be able to register at the Gynaecologist’s office.

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And lastly a screen shot of the variables that I’ve started to assign. These will tell me what players have clicked on, whether or not they are carrying certain objects in their inventory, and what storyline they’ve chosen to progress. Because this is such a large project (I have difficulty working small) this game will expand outside Hacking Health. As I joked, if it doesn’t become a blue screen of death I’ll be pretty happy. I’ll do a longer post on Construct 2 later. I’ve got some good sun coming through the window and need to use it to make a few layers.

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I finally bought a new camera. I went with a Sony A5000. Honestly, it was a hard choice and this one felt the best when I was using it. I’m using this camera to photograph LEGO dioramas to be used in a visual novel/point and click adventure game called Gynaecologist….what?.  This is a game that I am working on with the delightful Dr. Nada. I.M Ibrahaim. We met through the Hacking Health Design Challenge in Toronto. The goal of our game is to teach women how to go to the gynaecologist and thus create an educated and empowered patient. In the game, we will show all the basic things on how an appointment is suppose to go with a focus on uterine fibroids.

I’ve worked with LEGO for my previous game Hysteria: A Surgical Fantasy (links when I document the game.) and LEGO seems to work well for lightening serious subject matter. My interest came about when I initially wanted to do pixel art, but found out I do not have the patience or the skill to do it. Often projects I undertake are for game jams, meaning I don’t have enough time to learn or practice before the game is due.  I’m slightly better at building than I am at drawing and I’ve collected a few medical theme sets for a series of comics I am slowly drafting. LEGO seems logical. However, this can quickly be changed to illustration too.

LEGO simplifies forms and makes threatening spaces look friendly. Hence, why I like using it to talk about medicine; I have PTSD from medical trauma. It makes it easier to talk about these kinds of subjects without having to see the real thing. Instead there is a brightly colour simplified version. Admittedly, part of the game is meant to act as exposure therapy for patients like me who have a hard time even stepping foot in a hospital, let alone allowing a doctor to touch them. To show that appointments can actually go right, and as patient you have some control.

Here’s a series of test shots for the new game. I’ve build modest version of some of the locations for Gynaecologist….what?

(Not pictured, Dialogue box and options. Interface to come very soon!)

One friend telling the other about their heavy bleeding over cupcakes and pastry (they need drinks and a better background)





At Reception – Everything is going well (Note this needs to be retaken)


Now things aren’t going so well (I’m thinking about an option where things go wrong)

In the waiting room (And you choose to ask a friend to come! Yup, you can call a friend or go solo)

Another shot of the waiting room with the scary robot receptionist.

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