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An escape room game offers a virtual tool for vocational rehabilitation of young people

The Mysteeri 24/7 project develops a virtual serious game for young people that supports them in managing their daily lives and developing learning skills.

Virtual reality applied in a gaming environment can be captivating, and in addition to entertainment, new experiences offered by VR and the addictive nature of games can also be applied in various forms of learning. But what kind of a serious game would be of assistance in the vocational rehabilitation of adolescents and young adults? A solution to this is being sought in the Mysteeri 24/7 project launched in January. 

Mysteeri 24/7 is a project funded by the Social Insurance Institution Kela. In addition to Laurea, the project participants are the Kajaani University of Applied Sciences and Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK). Other project partners include Diakonia College of Finland, Kainuu Vocational College, Rehabilitation Foundation, Tavastia Vocational College, the cities of Espoo and Hämeenlinna, as well as the Emy ry mental health association in Espoo.

Game as a professional tool

The specific target group is adolescents who have become or are in danger of becoming marginalised with regard to employment or education. The project goal is to create a virtual escape game for adolescents and young adults that supports their vocational rehabilitation. 

The objective of the game is to offer a tool for social services professionals, who can discuss the observations made during the game with the young person. A professional’s handbook will also be prepared to support the use of the game.

The first stage of the project was participated in by Laurea students in the Physiotherapy and Bachelor of Social Services programmes on the Otaniemi campus. During the study unit concerning factors that impact the social services, the students brainstormed ideas related to the life of young people. These ideas were divided into eight themes, including health, addictions, social issues and managing one’s finances. 

The physiotherapy students were in charge of defining the customer profiles for the game.  After that, the students came up with ideas on how to address these challenges in the game. The next step is to involve young people through the partners to develop the dilemmas created further.

The many opportunities offered by serious games

The Kajaani University of Applied Sciences (KAMK) is responsible for the actual implementation of the project. At the beginning of March, Laurea students presented their ideas to the gaming specialists at KAMK and discussed elements that the game being developed could be built on. Comments on the students’ ideas were provided in Kajaani by Kyösti Koskela, who leads the gaming development team, and game developer Niko Kinnunen: 

- A serious game offers an approachable method to learn things that might be difficult, since the situations can be presented visually to the user.

- In addition, virtual reality offers environments that look authentic, with natural ranges of motion. This provides a way to safely learn how to use various types of equipment, for example.

Virtual serious games have been applied to a variety of purposes at the Kajaani University of Applied Sciences. Among other things, games have been used to teach virtual car repairs, logistics or using different mechanical tools, such as lathes, but also to provide nursing care for the elderly. 

The role of the Häme University of Applied Sciences is to design gaming ideas together with the other partners and to carry out an assessment study. The purpose of the study is to present how young people experience their participation in the process of developing a virtual escape game. It also aims to describe the experiences of young people and instructors concerning the usefulness of the escape game in terms of the learning skills and life management of the young.

“Gaming comes naturally to the young”

The social services students who participated in the first stage of the project – Hanna Taipale, Petteri Laakso, Laura Kähkönen, Oona Kupari and Jutta Berg – were excited about combining gamification and work with young people: 

- Games are a contemporary phenomenon and gaming comes naturally to the young. That’s why it’s been interesting to be part of the development of a tool that the young are so familiar with and that could be used to help them.

However, the students realise that the game has to be more than just entertaining and fun; it needs to be a thought-provoking tool as well. Discussion with professionals plays an important role in the use of the game:

- The game must be sufficiently interesting and captivating for the young to want to play it without having to be told to do so, Oona Kupari says.

- The game progresses based on the choices the player makes. Even the “correct” choices need to be captivating enough so that the player does not intentionally start doing things wrong just to get more entertainment and fun out of it, Petteri Laakso adds.