Playful PHI: Using Cognitive Behavioral Game Design (CBGD) to Create a COVID-19 Prevention Game, Vaccine Nation

Keywords: Games, Public Health, COVID-19, Disease Prevention, Health Literacy, Play, Health Promotion, Vaccine Nation


During the Covid-19 pandemic, scientists and public health organizations such as the CDC and the WHO promoted health guidelines to the public. However, social media misinformation, social stigma, and a drastic change in lifestyle lead to reduced compliance or non-compliance with these measures. As a result, playful public health messaging emerged as an attempt to increase health literacy around Covid-19 preventative practices, one of which was the tower defense game, Vaccine Nation. This article outlines the design principles of Cognitive Behavioral Game Design (CBGD) and how they were used to design the tower-defense game Vaccine Nation, incorporating recommended health interventions including isolating, hand hygiene, social distancing, wearing masks, and eventually getting vaccinated.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Katryna Starks, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana

Dr. Katryna Starks is a game scholar and researcher specializing in curriculum development, training, narrative, and psychology. Her research focuses on how video games can foster health-promoting behaviors, how female protagonist agency affects youth and young adult female player identity. She co-developed a Bachelor of Serious Games degree and designed the Interactive Narrative minor within that program. Her most prominent research includes “Cognitive Behavioral Game Design: a framework for creating Serious Games”, and “Using Twine as a Therapeutic Writing Tool for Creating Serious Games”. In her teaching, she loves creating showcasing engaging stories, whimsical characters, and conveying worlds through simple interactions that convey meaning.