Play & Learn: Part 4

I discussed my work progress with Jen, one of my tutors. She argued that I should incorporate some of my personal projects, which include 3d design and game design, into my IPS. I personally disliked the idea and felt that it did not suit my intentions, but it did get me thinking more about the Play & Learn project.

Jen’s suggestion reminded me about games for change, a concept I came across at Södertörns Högskola when I briefly studied game graphics. The idea is to use game and their interactive design to discuss political questions regarding environment, equality, civil rights and more. While most of these games were digitally, I remembered a board game named Train designed by Brenda Romero.

Unknown artist. (2013) Brenda Romero's train. Read more about the game on Venturebeat.

The players are instructed to load trains with small humanoid markers and push them to the end of the rail. When one train finish, the game reveals it destination: Auschwitz. The game thus discusses the Holocaust and the moral issues of following orders. While some have questioned the ethics of exploring these themes through a game, most of them who played it have felt an emotional connection that is hard to express through text, images, or even movies.

Unknown artist. (1949) Mongolida män, Vipeholms sjukhus för sinnesslöa, Lund. Thomas Olssons arkiv.

I also decided to focus on the Vipeholm experiments, two studies that took place from 1945 to 1953 at the largest institution for mentally disabled in Sweden at that time. Back in the early 20th century, the Swedish dental hygiene was extremely bad. Some studies estimated that up to 99.99% suffered from extreme caries and tooth decay, which were expensive to treat properly. The Social democrats financed a dental care reform with taxes, but it was costly and controversial. In order to gain support, they initiated an expensive experiment to find what could prevent caries. After two years of study, the scientists have not got any results.

In order to save their – and the politicians - faces and secure financial funds, the scientists decided to rework the experiment. They decided to provoke caries by feeding the patients toffee, chocolate, caramel, and sucrose. Some of the control groups ate twice the average consumption, while also leaving regular saliva, urine, and blood samples. Many of the patients were bedridden and/or unable to communicate, which makes their participation questionable. Furthermore, neither the relatives nor the politicians were told about this change in advance.

The study managed to once and for all show an undeniable correlation between sugar and caries. It changed the dental care not only in Sweden, but also in the rest of the Nordic countries as well as US. Children had to brush their teeth twice a day and limit their candy consumption to once a week. During late 50s, schoolchildren had to check their tooth status regularly with special dentist nurses called “fluorine ladies” to ensure strong teeth.

The Swedish dental hygiene was saved, but only by an experiment that breached the Nuremberg Code. Neither the patients nor their relatives were informed about the study or how they could withdraw, neither were they compensated. Furthermore, it took over a year for two dentists to repair or pull out all teeth that got damaged due to the experiments, and they did not even treat all patients. The scientists and doctors argued that the patients should be happy that they finally contributed to the Swedish society.