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The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Professors design healthcare-inspired digital escape room

Emily McCave, professor of social work, joined Jonah Warren, professor of game design and development, to create a digital escape room for students to learn more about the healthcare profession.

McCave is one of the 10 Quinnipiac University faculty members awarded a grant from the Faculty Scholarship and Creative Works Impact Fund. The fund, administered by the Office of the Provost, strives to support faculty looking to publish their research.

After receiving the grant this summer, McCave requested $4,000 in total. The three students who contributed to the digital escape room — all of whom started the project in class during the spring semester and are no longer receiving school credit for it — will receive the majority of the funding.

McCave began the interprofessional educational escape room in 2019 when she received a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning grant

In order to escape the room, students have to solve a series of clues to identify the mannequin “patients” and assist them. The team must collaborate to complete seven clues in 45 minutes to succeed. At the end of the game, McCave said, the team holds a discussion to compare the game to real-world healthcare scenarios.

“So, the clues and the puzzles allow them to gain some knowledge around specific roles and responsibilities that they might not have had, but mostly practice teamwork and effective communication, because they are under a time constraint,” McCave said.

McCave hosts the game in person once a month in the North Haven Campus’ Center for Interprofessional Healthcare Education.

However, McCave is currently expanding it to a digital platform with Warren. McCave said she wanted students to have the option to play the escape room online because the in-person version had become popular.

An online version, she explained, would enable her to offer the game more frequently and would no longer require students to travel to North Haven to play it.

“So, it’s really just to meet student demand,” McCave said. “I would still continue to offer the in-person version, but it’d be great if we could offer a digital version as well that students ideally could do from their own homes.”

McCave said gaming engages students in active learning in a fun way.

“I’m a strategy gamer myself,” she said. “And so I’m really interested in gaming as an effective teaching tool.”

In the spring semester of 2023, McCave said she approached Warren to see if his computer science or video game design students would be interested in creating a digital escape room for a class project.

Warren teaches the Game Lab IV: Team Projects course that the three students involved in the project took during the spring 2023 semester. He said he helped the students translate the in-person game to a digital platform and navigate any problems they encountered. He also helped McCave apply for the grant.

He said he became interested in educational games because it gives him the chance to try actions out without having to worry about making mistakes.

“You get to practice this real world situation, without any consequences,” Warren said.

Warren said the digital game is around halfway completed because multiplayer games require a lot of technical knowledge. He added that the students have been doing a fantastic job.

Nathaniel Pippin, a senior game design major, first became involved when real clients came into his game design class and offered game ideas. He selected the digital escape room as his top choice.

“I thought that’d be a fun challenge,” Pippin said. “Also, if it could be used at Quinnipiac, I feel like that would also be really cool to leave my mark.”

Where the in-person escape room requires the students to call McCave on her cell phone to describe the details of the patient, Pippin said having an online version would enable students to play without McCave being physically present.

Pippin then visited the in-person escape room on April 19 to take pictures of the project to recreate digitally with a program called Blender.

“I wasn’t so sure about it until Professor McCave actually let me come into the physical escape room and look around,” Pippin said.

Although he said he had used Blender to create a game before, he noted that it was not as serious as the digital escape room.

Pippin said he never expected to get paid for his work, and was surprised when he received an email about the grant money.

“I’m still in school, and I’ve never done game design that actually gets paid,” Pippin said. “So, it’s just a big step forward.”

McCave said she aims to finish the digital escape room sometime this academic year. She said the project’s completion date will depend on if the students can complete it with the current funding alone. And if not, it will depend on whether they can find another funding source.

“So, the idea is that hopefully sometime in November, we might have something to test — like a beta version — to test with students to get feedback,” McCave said.

McCave will be presenting the interprofessional escape room at the Thomas Jefferson University Interpersonal Care conference in November to try to collaborate with other industry professionals working on similar projects.

Brothers Matthew and Michael Merritt, both senior computer science and game design and development double majors, contributed to the coding aspect of the game.

Matthew Merritt started alongside Pippin in the spring of 2023, while his brother joined during the fall 2023 semester.

Matthew Merritt said it was important that a player have enough space to easily move in the room, pick up objects and find clues. 

“We spent a lot of time really thinking about how to translate puzzles from the real world into the virtual world and how to ensure that they were still just as interactive and complete as they were in the real environment,” he said.

The brothers said the grant money allows them to pay for the costs associated with online multiplayer games. The game will be available to play on different WiFi servers, which is one of their goals this semester.

“It was a kind of win-win (situation) for everyone,” Michael Merritt said. “We were able to help the school get a resource that they needed, as well as get experience that we needed ourselves because I know that my brother and I really wanted to make multiplayer games so this was a great opportunity to do so.”

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Krystal Miller
Krystal Miller, Associate Arts & Life Editor
Daniel Passapera
Daniel Passapera, Digital Managing Editor

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