Skip to main content

New Serious Game Battles Public Health Outbreaks

Image credit: Outbreak Squad by Learning Games Lab

Outbreak Squad is an exciting new educational, simplified role-playing game to battle public health outbreaks.

Developed by Learning Games Lab at New Mexico State University in partnership with the University of Tennessee for grades 5 and above, the Serious Game is also suitable for youth or adults interested in learning about food safety and foodborne illness prevention. In the game, players learn that outbreaks can vary by severity, impact, commodity, and audience and can be mitigated by taking action before the outbreak begins.

Taking historical examples of outbreaks that started from contaminated food, Outbreak Squad simulates how different disciplines can be used to tackle outbreaks, keeping the community from getting sicker. The game offers 6 real cases of foodborne illness outbreaks for practice, exploring how sources of contamination can happen in different times/locations, in the field, at home, with the supplier, or in restaurants, and the impact of balancing various solutions with budget limits.
Meet the Outbreaks: Hammy Burgens
Pathogen: E. coli O157:H7

Meet the Outbreaks: Callie N. Tae
Pathogen: Hepatitis A virus (HAV)

Players use a team of superheroes with a unique set of abilities and learn how collaborating across disciplines help tackle outbreaks more effectively.

Outbreak Squad Superheroes
Enforcers prevent foodborne illness from spreading by stopping you from eating contaminated foods.
Researchers look for new and more effective ways to prevent outbreaks, stop the spread of an outbreak and treat those infected.
Educators spread knowledge and understanding about different ways to prevent yourself, and loved ones, from getting sick from foodborne illnesses.
Healthcare Professionals are responsible for healing people already affected by an outbreak.

 The game requires balancing: no one strategy or hero can defeat the outbreak. In terms of strategy, one salient theme in the case of many outbreaks is the difference between treating low-risk populations versus high-risk populations. Because of their status, although high-risk populations may be smaller than the low-risk population (as demonstrated in this game), the impact of the disease is severe. That is why options like quarantine and social distancing are critical.

Outbreak Squad is based upon work supported by the SPECA Challenge Grant, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture.