In the game, the Amazing Food Detective (A.F.D.), an animated female gumshoe decked out in traditional trench coat and hat, provides kids with a lineup of eight children from diverse cultural backgrounds, each representing a mystery.
One of the mysteries involves Michael, a boy who "doesn't exercise enough." Michael's a little chubby, and his dossier reveals the unhealthy habit of "too much computer time." His activity level is "way low" explains the A.F.D., suggesting that Michael needs to get more "play in his day." The mystery takes you back in time to when Michael is sitting on the couch watching TV. The room has many interactive objects, but you solve the mystery by clicking on the soccer shirt. Michael puts it on and joins a soccer team. The A.F.D. explains that "Doing something active gives you more energy."
Some of the other mysteries deal with children who exercise but are not very strong (solution: eat more protein), who skip breakfast, and who eat too much. In each, the player helps the unhealthy children make changes to their lifestyles.
Solving each mystery unlocks three of the game's 24 arcade mini-games. The mini-games vary greatly but are usually themed to the eating or exercise problem brought up in the mystery.
For example, the games linked to Michael are exercise-based and include one about seeing how many martial arts moves you can memorize. Another is about scoring soccer goals.
Not wanting to be part of the problem of having kids play too many video games without getting enough exercise, Kaiser Permanente built in some unique features for this online game: "This is not like any other video game because it shuts off after 20 minutes, tells kids to do something active like push-ups and won't let them back into the game for 60 minutes." explains Baxter.
The game can be played in English or Spanish. While solving the mysteries is easy, testers were surprised at how much fun the mini-games were. The target audience is 9-10 year-olds, but most of the mini-games can be enjoyed by children as young as 6.
In addition to the mini-games, each mystery also links to printable materials including healthy recipes, internet Scavenger hunts, experiments, exercises, and more. The message about eating healthy and exercising clearly comes through all aspects of this game, while it remains fun to play.
Kaiser Permanente has partnered with Scholastic to distribute this game and related teaching materials and parent guides to 5,000 schools. Teachers and parents interested in these supplemental materials can find them on the web at (www.AmazingFoodDetective.com
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