How we built an online game to promote worker health

How do your choices impact your health… and your success at work? That is the question that guided the work we did to make a custom, online game with the Center for Worker Health at the University of Illinois Chicago’s School of Public Health. The Center for Worker Heath “is a research and education center established in 2016 to advance the health and well being of workers in Chicago, the state of Illinois, and the nation… The Center’s mission is to remove barriers that impact the health of low wage workers in the increasingly contingent workforce.”

Originally conceived to be a board game used for their internal programs, similar to the board game we created for The Nature Conservancy, the intention behind the game shifted during the course of the pandemic. The game was re-imagined to be a custom online game, which we have similarly done in the past for organizations such as Planned Parenthood. The result of our collaboration with the Center is the game In A Year’s Work™.

In A Year’s Work™ demonstrates how different workers within the same organization experience the social determinants of health. Each time you play, you take on one of three characters in the fictional company eDelivery Enterprises: the CEO, the HR Manager, or the Warehouse Worker. When you go through the game as a character, you’ll be faced with different decisions, ranging from how to get to work, to dealing with a pandemic, and even facing the fallout of a workplace accident. You’ll experience how your health and work are changed through a year by your decisions, your status, the events you encounter, and the world around you.

In A Year’s Work™ is a narrative-based decision game. You must get through twelve months working at eDelivery. Each month, you will be presented with a story prompt and a decision to make, depending on the character you have chosen to play as. The outcomes from your choices will effect two categories: your health and your ability to make an impact at eDelivery.

Here’s an example of a decision that the warehouse character must choose:

If your health falls below 1, you will suffer a major health crisis and the game will immediately end. If you make it through 12 months without falling below 1 health, you will be asked if you want to make a major impact at eDelivery – which you are more likely to succeed at with more impact points.

Each character starts with a different level of health and impact points, and while they face a similar overall narrative, the choices available to them and potential outcomes are drastically changed by their status.

Throughout the game, many of the decisions players make will have them roll a die to determine the outcome. This means players can go through the game as the same character multiple times, making similar choices, and getting different results.

In A Year’s Work™ is currently going through beta testing via the Center, and you can sign up to be a participant in a focus group if you’d like to play the game. We’re proud of our work to build this game with the Center for Health and we’re looking forward to continuing our partnership to expand this game’s impact!


Here’s what the Center for Health had to say about working with us!

Working with the TESA Collective has given us an opportunity to present our research in an engaging and informative way. Brian, and the TESA Collective team, challenged us to think differently and more productively about how we share our work. We are grateful for their support turning an important issue, like precarious work, into an experience that anyone can, and should, learn from.

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