OBJECTIVE: Comprehensive sex education programs specifically designed for adolescents and young adults that take into account gender norms and cultural background have shown promise as a means of countering the high sexually transmitted infection rate in young people. Recently, digital gaming interventions delivered on computers or mobile devices have emerged as another way to promote safer sex behavior in a young population. Tailoring these computer-based interventions to their target population has been recognized to increase positive behavior outcomes. In this qualitative study, we investigated whether young female and male adults from two different cultural backgrounds (all living in Germany) would have different preferences and needs in relation to an educational game promoting safer sex.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted four semistructured focus group interviews comprising open-ended questions with male and female participants who had either a German or a Turkish background. In total, 20 individuals, aged between 18 and 22 years, from two socially diverse and ethnically mixed vocational schools in Germany participated.
RESULTS: Independent of cultural background and gender, participants preferred a real-world design with a first-person visual perspective over a fantasy-like third-person perspective. Furthermore, they preferred highly customizable avatars. All participants mentioned the importance of including an alcohol-intoxicated avatar and most participants wanted there to be additional information available about various safer sex approaches and about the use of different barrier protection methods. Males and females reported similar preferences for the design of an educational game promoting safer sex, with the only difference being exactly how the topic of having sexual intercourse should be addressed in the game. Males preferred a direct approach, whereas females had a preference for treating this subject more sympathetically.
CONCLUSION: Educational games offer anonymity and can provide young people across different cultural backgrounds with gender-tailored opportunities to experiment with specific safer sex precautions in a nonthreatening virtual environment, free from unwanted parental control and peer monitoring.