Battle in the Blood (#BitB) is a unique game and the first app of its kind to focus on the HIV problem in the Philippines as well as demonstrate barriers to treatment and counselling. It will be available on Google Play and Apple iOS from November 26, 2017, or a few days before the celebration of World AIDS Day on December 1.
Dr. Emmanuel S. Baja, research associate professor and principal investigator of the HIV Gaming, Engaging, and Testing (HIV GET Tested) Project of the Institute of Clinical Epidemiology, National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines Manila, said #BitB is designed specifically for the Philippine context.
“#BitB targets adolescents aged 10 -19 and young adults, aged 20 – 24. The focus during the design and development of the game was to make certain that the game was acceptable, relevant, and engaging specifically among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender (TG) women, the two populations known to be at high risk of HIV in the Philippines. The HIV GET team wanted to ensure that the MSM and TG women felt comfortable and enjoyed playing the game,” Dr. Baja said.
“#BitB is the first gaming app that would hopefully help increase the uptake of HIV testing and treatment in the Philippines. That HIV is not a death sentence anymore. It is just a chronic disease like Diabetes, there is treatment available and people living with HIV (PLHIV) can still have a normal and happy life. This gaming app is a very powerful communication tool to address the stigma of HIV especially among young MSMs and TG women who are at a higher risk for HIV infection,” Dr. Baja added.
Funding agencies for the development of the app are the UK government through the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Philippine government through the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, Department of Science and Technology. Implementing Agencies of the HIV GET Project are University of the Philippines Manila and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM).
Cooperating Agencies of the project are the Department of Health, the local governments of Quezon City and Davao City, Love Yourself Inc., Engaging Tool for Communication in Health (ETCH) and Extra Mile Studios Ltd.
HOW TO PLAY
In #BitB, players journey across 90 levels battling HIV and his army of co-infections. On the way, they witness 8 short stories about the PLHIV they’re helping. Players can create their own gender fluid avatar with a wide range of hairstyles and outfits. Each story is told using a dynamic 2D comic book Manga-style animation, a popular art form in the Philippines.
Each story shows the character demonstrating courage in overcoming real fears and barriers to HIV testing and treatment, the player must then complete a batch of 10 levels to see how each short story ends. A twist at the end results in the player choosing how the story ends for the 8th character.
The screen is split into two; a puzzle board where players must connect icons to icons to build up their avatar’s attack and defense power, and an animated combat scene where players get to see the combat for that round play out.
They can access the menu at any point during the game. Here, they can check out where they are on the leader board and read about the different game icons and access online information on where they can get free access HIV services. They can re-visit and replay all of the animations they’ve unlocked so far and finally check out their achievements.
Unlike other games on the market that make you pay for an extra life or in-game bonus in #BitB players can answer a simple question to gain an extra life and another chance to beat the level.