Serious Game on Family Health History


Genealogy is a billion dollar industry in the United States, with millions of Americans pursuing their family history as both a hobby and in various professions.  Over the past several years, companies such as and 23& have offered genetic tests for genealogy.  Nearly 7,000,000 people have purchased these tests.

Genetic testing is a critical component of many different health-related areas.  Due to the complexity of genetic testing, there is a great need to help people understand the genetic basis of health-related matters.

A serious game related to the intersection between genealogy and genetic testing has the potential to appeal to the large number of people who have a personal interest in genealogy while encouraging people to explore their family health history.    

Genealogy Video Games – A Lack of Real Content

In 2011-2012, there was a Facebook game called “Family Village” that was a basic city building game (i.e. a very light version of Sim City) in which players could make characters around the ancestors in their family trees while building a small village.  The game received a fair amount of media attention and $1.8 million in funding.  Ultimately though, there was no real content related to genealogy in the game, and it disappeared rather quickly:
There is a newer mobile game called “Family House” which is essentially a very light version of “The Sims” in which you create characters based on your ancestors as you grow a large family mansion.  For people with an interest in genealogy, it is enjoyable to create cartoon versions of one’s ancestors.  Once again though, there is no real content related to genealogy in the game:


There is an important health-related profession that relies on family history – genetic counseling. Genetic counselors help people understand the genetic basis of their health history and provide specific guidance and interpretation on genetic testing for health-related matters.  Many of the basic techniques in genealogy can be applied to encourage people to become aware of genetic conditions that could be identifiable in their recent family history.  
The University of Pittsburgh offers a Masters-level program in Genetic Counseling through the Graduate School of Public Health.  The program is run by Robin Grubs, MS, PhD, LCGC:
The National Society of Genetic Counselors has a helpful website with several videos and other resources that explain genetic testing and the role of genetic counselors: 
The U.S. Surgeon General, in cooperation with other agencies with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides this family health history portrait tool as a web-based application that encourages individuals to document their family history:


There is a great deal of consumer demand  for genetic genealogy and for genealogy in general.  A serious game in which people add their ancestors to a game, while being prompted to raise awareness about genetic conditions in their family, could be very promising.  This would certainly be more substantial than the previous Facebook game/current mobile game and it has great promise as a tool to raise awareness on family health history.