Unsavory is a mobile game designed to put the player in the precarious position of choosing between their personal health, public health and their financial well-being. Like other activist games, the intention is to create awareness and empathy around an issue that is best understood as part of a larger system. Additionally, the game seeks to be a catalyst for change by embedding a social media campaign into gameplay that encourages players to share meaningful facts and statistics regarding restaurant workers, access to health care, and paid sick day legislation.
My work with ROC United put me on the path to design Unsavory. With funding through a School of Communication Creative Award, I assembled a team of three graduate students and a local composer to develop the game. Unsavory was extremely well received by the serious games community. It was accepted into numerous peer reviewed and juried exhibitions, including Meaningful Play and Games+Learning+Society 12 where it was among the top 5 games in the showcase. Unsavory also received a gold award at the International Serious Play Awards in the main competition, even though the majority of the team was comprised of students. For its innovative use of social media, the game also received a special emphasis award at the Serious Games Showcase and Challenge, which is part of I/ITSEC, the largest training and simulation conference in the world. Additionally, the game won the Best of Category in Mobile Games at the 2015 Horizon Interactive Awards.
Advocating for social issues through games was new territory for University of Miami. I was invited by Academic Technologies to talk faculty and staff about the game as part of a workshop on narrative techniques and the game is part of their examples for simulations. Unsavory received a healthy amount of press coverage, including Eater Miami and the Seattle Times. At the university, it was a featured article on UM News and E-Veritas. It was also mentioned in various press releases for award shows.