Howard Delafield International demonstrates the life-changing power of digital games

9th Feb, 2024: Howard Delafield international (HDI), a woman-owned pioneering team integrating behavioral insights, commercial expertise, and emerging technologies to effect positive change, hosted Gamechangers’ 24 at The Claridges, New Delhi. The milestone event showcased the substantial impact of the USAID-funded award-winning game, Go Nisha Go, in shaping knowledge and behaviors among 15–19-year-old girls to realize their full potential. The role-play game, downloaded by over 300,000 adolescents, shows players the power of choice-making through an avatar and how the decisions they make shape their lives.

Team Howard Delafield International (HDI)

The game has five levels that cover negotiation with parents, menstruation, consent, contraception, and delaying early marriage in a fun and interactive way. Direct access to 26 partners delivering in-game information and resources combined with the ability to make choices and see their outcomes led to a significant impact on knowledge, self-efficacy and intent, as evidenced in a first randomized control trial (RCT), the gold standard of research conducted on games. Aparna Raj, HDI’s Research Lead, unveiled the results of a large-scale research trial among the first conducted on a digital game. The study enlisted approximately 2000 girls in Patna, Jaipur, and Delhi. These regions represent areas with high rates of early marriage and pregnancy, potentially disrupting a girl’s education, career and life potential.

The research, conducted by Population Council Consulting, revealed significant improvement for girls who played the game. Those who played the game were at least twice as likely to have comprehensive knowledge of modern contraceptives, including condoms, oral contraceptive pills, and emergency contraceptive pills, compared to those who did not.

Fertility awareness, denoting a correct understanding of the menstrual cycle and pregnancy window, was nearly non-existent (3.5%) at baseline, but at the endline, the players had a 119% higher likelihood to know about it. The likelihood of intention to seek help for contraceptive and menstrual-related issues was higher amongst players by 132% and 115%, respectively.

Results also indicate that girls in the treatment group had a higher ability to seek health advice and buy menstrual products online, demonstrating the effectiveness of the Direct-to-consumer (DTC) approach. Notably, confidence to control the timing of marriage, negotiate contraceptives and consent was also higher by 1.7, 1.2, and 2.9 times, respectively.

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Dr. Susan Howard, Co-founder of HDI, professor at George Mason University, and the visionary behind Go Nisha Go, shared, “The overall takeaway is that fun and interactive games can activate the motivation and desire to learn through a challenge or quest, simulate ‘push-pull’ conflicts, and allow players to experience choices in a safe place. Moreover, games can nudge players to explore in-game resources and try products and services for use in real life. Finally, games can stimulate confidence in real life through successes and failures within the game with the option to ‘replay’.”

Kavita Ayyagari, Country Director India, added “ Go Nisha Go is available for free on the Google Play Store, and its popularity has soared since its launch in July 2022, with over 300,000 downloads to date. It currently has an impressive consumer rating of 4.5 on the Play Store, a testament to its engaging and impactful content. The game incorporates a user-friendly chatbot (AskParo) and connects users with a curated selection of 26 products and services”. So far, these resources have been clicked over 754,000 times, and the chatbot has received over 200,000 messages. The game is in Hinglish (Hindi language written in English script) and has been downloaded across the country with most downloads from Delhi, Rajasthan, and Bihar.

Speaking at the event, Dr. Zoya Ali Rizvi, Deputy Commissioner, National Health Mission, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, said, “Go Nisha Go represents a significant step towards empowering adolescent and young people with knowledge that extends beyond the virtual world. This knowledge supports positive behaviour and informed decision-making by them.”

Go Nisha Go earned accolades in 2023, winning the best serious game by Games and Learning Alliance in Dublin, Ireland and the ‘Best Learning Game’ at the Games for Change Festival, in New York City.